We are two professors who study gender equality and injustices in the workplace. One of us reviewed 186 published papers on gender equality in the last decade. Our conclusion: One of the biggest problems in contemporary policies aimed at gender equality in the workplace is that they leave out men.
For many women with young children, taking on more responsibilities at work means their responsibilities at home need to decrease. And for that to happen, men need to step up – and be encouraged to do so. Here are three ways companies could do just that.
1. Men need family-friendly policies, too
Family-friendly policies such as flextime, telecommuting and a compressed workweek have been seen as supporting women’s traditional roles and hence as more needed for women to take advantage of.
It may depend on why men take advantage of such policies. “High-status men” who sought flexible hours to advance their careers were most likely to get it – as opposed to those who sought to take on more child-caring duties. Men who sought flextime for this reason also anticipated more backlash for such requests.
Companies could overcome these stereotypes and fears by encouraging men to take advantage of these types of family-friendly policies and by proclaiming that there’s no penalty if the reason is to take on more domestic responsibilities.
Yet research shows that men who take parental leave become equal partners in raising their children, beyond the time they take off before or after a baby is born.
Organizations that don’t offer paternal leave should, of course, do so. But even those that already provide it should do more to encourage men to take advantage of it. One way is by offering “fathers-only” paid leave in addition to whatever is given to mothers.
In many countries where parental leave is mandated, such as Canada and across Europe, leave can be shared between men and women any way parents like. Data show that mothers typically take the majority of that leave, while fathers take very little.
Research shows that in nations that foster a culture that rewards overtime work, men do less housework and women do more. This undermines both men’s effort to engage in their roles outside of the office and women’s effort to engage in their careers.
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The research clearly shows offering these policies isn’t enough. Employers need to encourage men to use them, without fear of repercussions, for the policies to be successful.
Ivona Hideg’s research is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).
Manuela Priesemuth does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.