Don't just ask what you can do for women, but what you can do for men too

Is the workplace failing fathers? Chloé Chambraud, Business in the Community Gender Research and Policy Manager, believes so. Sharing the evidence submitted to the recent enquiry held by the Women and Equalities Commission by the Business in the Community gender equality campaign, Chloé says that the message is very clear: Men need to be empowered to balance their career and family lives.  

1.No equal earning without equal parenting 
For too long employers have focused on supporting female employees, particularly those in senior positions and corporate roles. If companies have got a handful of women on boards, others are still prevented from progressing because of sticky floors at work… and at home. We know that women taking career breaks and working part time because of childcare responsibilities is one of the driving factors for the gender pay and bonus gaps. This has a ripple effect not only on their salaries and pensions but also on their career opportunities. In our Project 28-40 survey, over half of women with children said they felt they were no longer given interesting or stretching work. Besides, a recent report also found that women are still shouldering the bulk of housework and childcare, spending three times longer on household chores as men. Women just don’t have enough hours in the day to do market work and household work. So, guess which one they give up on? 

2. Men want to spend more time with their family
While women want to spend more time at work, men want to spend more time at home. According to the 2017 Modern Families Index, almost half of working fathers want to work less and devote this time to their families, while 38% said they would take a pay cut for a better work-life balance. For millennial men, these figures are even higher. Fathers are still twice as likely to have flexible working requests turned down compared to mothers. And where policies do exist, the fear of being perceived as less committed means that new dads choose not to use them. As a result, young fathers aged 26-35 are most likely to resent work impacting on their home lives. This culture needs to change if companies want to retain their top talent – men and women – such as by showcasing senior role models who are working flexibly and/or taking shared parental leave (SPL). 

3.More men at home, more women at work 
Supporting fathers to spend more time at home is an effective way to tackle the pay and bonus gaps in your organisation. OECD research showed that fathers who took shared parental leave were more likely to change nappies, get up in the night, bath and read to a child. This paternal engagement will free up women’s time and allow them to invest in their careers. However, currently, just 2% of eligible fathers have taken SPL, and increasing this uptake is key to furthering gender equality. This can be achieved by enhancing pay and benefits to mirror those received on maternity leave. Normalising career breaks through SPL in this way would also reduce the detrimental effect of a career break on women and address the concerns of men considering SPL. The boldest companies might even consider giving non-transferable parental leave to fathers to effect change, as was recommended by experts who gave evidence to the Women and Equalities Committee last week. 
We are proud to see that members of our Gender Equality Campaign are leading the way in this area. For example, EY is now offering one distinct parental package to all their staff including fathers, mothers, surrogate mothers and adoptive parents. Meanwhile, Accenture has equalised their pay packages for men and women on SPL and showcased their most senior leaders as ambassadors to SPL to encourage a culture change. These are best practice examples that should be implemented by many more companies. 

Of course, caring responsibilities don’t end when SPL does, so there needs to be support in place for all parents after the leave too. This could include mentoring, buddying and informing parents on internal vacancies. Employers should also enable all their employees to take up agile and flexible working where possible and allow men and women to reconcile family life and work. 

4. Gender equality begins at home
The outdated 1950s-style model of the man being the main breadwinner and the woman looking after the house and kids clearly isn’t working for individuals or employers, who run the risk of losing out on talented employees. Gender equality should begin at home and focus on both men and women. For too long, employers have focused their efforts on progressing women in the workplace. Now they should be thinking about empowering men at home too.