“The right to freedom can never be absolute, because it must be consistent with the freedom of others.”
If freedom to work and care is only for mothers, it limits the freedoms accessible to fathers, especially when it comes to parenting. The introduction of paid parental leave schemes equally accessible by mothers and fathers is key to driving parity. But it’s going to require leadership to encourage men to take it up and get out of the workplace…
According to one study, 59% of working dads would choose part time work if they could still have a meaningful career, but 36% of them also believed their organisation’s leaders would look down on men making that choice. It’s backed up by the Australian Human Rights Commission’s Supporting Working Parents Report which found that 1 in 4 men experienced discrimination for taking parental leave:
“Whereas stereotypes about women’s roles as caregivers operate in such a way that women can never meet the requirement of the ‘ideal worker’, these same stereotypes operate in harmful ways on men who step outside of the traditional role of ‘breadwinner’ and the ‘ideal worker’ by having visible caring responsibilities and seeking to work flexibly. In other words, the ‘flexibility stigma’ can affect men as well as women.”
AHRC, Supporting Working Parents Report, 2014
Is it the flexibility stigma, then, that sees even the most progressive couples (in this case, 25,000 Harvard MBA graduates) revert to the traditional stereotypes of mother and father when they have a baby?
“More than half the men in Gen X and the Baby Boom (83% of whom were married) said that when they left business school, they expected that their careers would take priority over their spouses’ or partners’, yet the vast majority of women graduates anticipated that their career would rank equally with those of their partners;
As it turned out, 75% of men reported that their careers had indeed taken precedence – more than had originally expected the case would be;
More than 75% of male graduates who were expecting to have partners and children expected that their partner would do the lion’s sure of childcare.”
….and the same patterns will continue to occur without an intervention for Millenials.
Whereas three quarters of Millennial women anticipate that their careers will be at least as important as their partners, 50% of male Millenials expect that their careers will take priority;
Whereas two thirds of Millennial men expect that their partners will handle the majority of child care, whereas just under half – 42% – of Millennial women expect that they themselves will do so too.
So what’s driving their decision-making? Is it because they don’t want to work part time or is it because they think their careers are more important?
While the stigma may be a component, we believe it’s more likely to be about job and financial security. And if you follow the money trail, it’s easy to see why. Men are already earning more money than their female partners, and simply by virtue of the age gap between them, are more likely to be further advanced in their careers:
- the average age of a first time mother is 29; the average age of a first time father is 33.
- there is a gender pay gap of 19%.
1 in 4 men experience discrimination for taking as little as 1 week of paternity leave.
Couples make decisions based on the short term financial challenges they face, rather than on the earning potential of each parent, meaning men are less likely to flex, and women are more likely to “lean out”.
Government and Corporate Australia has a role to play
A new study by EY and The Peterson Institute has found that paid paternity leave might be the key to getting more women into leadership. And not paid paternity leave as a secondary carer – as a primary caregiver.
“In countries that are more family-friendly and have greater support for child-bearing and rearing, women experience less disruptions in their careers and are more likely to make it to the top.”
The report looked at almost 22,000 companies in 91 countries and found that the places with the highest percentages of women in leadership, including in the boardroom and at the executive level, offered fathers a whopping 11 times more paternity leave days than those countries at the bottom.
But it requires leadership.
Luke Sayers, CEO PWC, had this to say about why men should take paternity leave.
Perhaps workplaces need to set targets for men taking paternity leave as well as getting women into leadership roles?