Why We Need Greater Male Representation to Help Break Stigmas Related to Parental Leave
When more dads take on parental leave, families do better, organisations perform better and the economy flourishes. So why do only 1 in 20 fathers take parental leave? Our partner WORK180 shares their stance on this topic.
Eda Caspillo, Marketing & Sales Coordinator
Dads in Australia WANT to take parental leave. It can lead to better relationships with their partner, strengthens the father-child bond leaving babies physically and mentally healthier, dads are also happier when they come to work and it supports gender equality in the workplace.
So why is it that only 1 in 20 fathers take parental leave?
With mothers taking extended leave and the costs of raising a child, it can come down to monetary issues. But also, unfortunately, it’s widely because of the stigma attached to it.
Dad and partner paid parental leave is 2 weeks at minimum wage from the Federal Government. Only 2 weeks to adjust to newborn life. We think any parent would agree that’s nowhere near enough time! If you’re lucky enough to work somewhere that has a decent parental leave policy for secondary carers, then you are luckier than most.
While monetary issues are the practical reason, it’s simply down to the stigmas they face when taking extended leave to look after a child. The last time we checked it was 2022, and looking after a child is just as much of a responsibility for men as it is for women!
So what are the stigmas and why do they even exist?
It comes from social stigmas and old fashioned attitudes where the mother should be the one to stay home and look after the children while fathers went out to work.
Men fear that their careers will stall if they devote more time to their kids. That promotions and career advancements will go towards the people who are in the office more frequently, or that they’ll lose their status or value at the company. If lockdowns taught us anything, it’s that you don’t need to be in the office full time to be successful, regardless of gender. Working from home allows people to have a better work-life balance while being just as, or even more, productive than in the office.
They also fear that coworkers will judge them for taking “too much time off” for taking care of a child. Especially when they see very few, if any, of their male colleagues taking leave. This just adds to the unrealistic expectation that people, of any gender, need to choose between their families and having a career.
There’s a myth that working dads who want to take parental leave aren’t committed to their careers but spoiler alert - they certainly are!
If we want to break down taboos and reduce stigmas, workplace culture needs to normalise and encourage men taking parental leave. Managers and leaders can also set an example by taking parental leave themselves.
The benefits are for everyone
There’s the obvious benefit for the mother, having their partner at home to help adjust and take care of a newborn lets them recover from childbirth faster.
It also levels the playing field for all women in the workplace, helping them return to work quicker and giving them as much of a chance to accelerate their careers as men. If both men and women were expected to take parental leave at any time, it would remove discrimination in the workplace, especially at the hiring phase.
We chatted with our expert partner, WORK180, about gender equality in the workplace. Here’s what Jane Cormack, Chief Product Officer had to say:
“Promoting a culture of shared caring responsibilities is one of the 10 key standards WORK180 focuses on for driving equity in the workplace.
If we continue to foster systems, policies and practices that make family and domestic life “women’s work”, as opposed to a shared responsibility, then we will fail to ever gain the economic, social and cultural benefits of a genuinely diverse workforce.
The gaps we see, particularly in pay equity and the representation of women in the workforce (especially in senior roles), simply cannot be closed without greater efforts to enable sharing the load.
It is imperative for organisations and government to be proactively and fiercely working to change the structures and attitudes that disincentivise increased male representation in family life.”
– Jane Cormack, Chief Product Officer at WORK180
The benefit for fathers is also undeniable. Fathers who take extended parental leave get a chance to create and strengthen a special bond with their child which can last for years to come. It also helps them become more nurturing and involved fathers and are generally more satisfied with time spent with their child.
The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) stated that “children whose fathers took parental leave have stronger cognitive development and enjoy better emotional outcomes and physical health. “
Even companies who offer good parental leave policies see improvements in employee engagement, retention and productivity.
Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit and husband to Serena Williams, is a long advocate for men taking parental leave. “Explicitly (or implicitly) telling a male employee that they’re less of a man for taking time to be with their family after their child’s birth is as stupid as it is outdated. Showing up is exactly what fathers should be doing for their families. Now is the time to eliminate the stigma associated with paternity leave, once and for all.” says Ohanian.
An article by Women’s Agenda says that “overcoming the stigma around men taking parental leave involves empowering men and normalising it when it happens. It’s about empowering fathers and partners to embrace parental leave as a right they are entitled to, and not a career choice they have to make.”
We need more men to follow Ohanian’s attitudes towards parental leave. The more we normalise it, the less stigmas men will face which will lead to happier families and employees. It really is a win-win for all.
WORK180 promotes organizational standards that raise the bar for women* in the workplace. For employers, its globally recognized endorsement and expert support helps them attract, nurture, and retain the diverse workforce that (data continues to prove) they need to thrive. It’s all about enabling workplaces to do better, while empowering women to expect better.
*by women this means all women (trans, intersex and cis), all those who experience oppression as women (including non-binary and gender non-conforming people) and all those who identify as women.
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