This Father’s Day, how about we try and make men feel good about spending time away from work and with their kids?
Because while more men want to be involved dads -- and increasingly, we expect them to be -- fathers still have to overcome a lot of judgment if they make that choice. A new survey about paternity leave from consulting firm Deloitte makes this painfully clear.
Even though 64 percent of the working adults polled said companies should offer men and women equal amounts of paid family leave to care for a new child, more than half of respondents said men would be judged negatively for taking the same amount of leave as a woman.
Both men and women were hesitant to take leave. More than one-third of respondents said they wouldn’t take advantage of their company’s paid leave benefits because they worried it could jeopardize their jobs. And 41 percent of men and women surveyed thought they’d lose out on opportunities if they took the time away.
But men were particularly worried: 57 percent of the male respondents thought that if they took leave, their colleagues would think they weren’t committed to their work.
Mind you, these are the "lucky" dads who actually get paid family leave. Only 14 percent of employers offer paternity leave, according to a survey from the Families and Work Institute.
In the conversation about work-family balance and angst, women get most of the attention. Less appreciated is the double bind men face. Culturally, we now expect men to be more involved at home but we haven’t loosened up workplace norms. Dads are expected to be breadwinners who are 100 percent devoted to their jobs. If they don’t demonstrate this devotion, they’re often penalized.
It’s the flip side of what people seem to want from working mothers, who are expected to be moms above all else. Sure, moms can work. Indeed, if they “just” stay home, they catch shit for that, too. But a woman who doesn’t put her kids first is judged pretty harshly.
And a working mom will also suffer at work, one way or another. Female consultants who seemed to prioritize their jobs were judged to be bad moms at one consulting firm analyzed in a 2015 paper by Boston University researchers.
As Bloomberg's Rebecca Greenfield points out, women have long been penalized for taking parental leave by missing out on promotions or promising work.
Men face a similar fate, though they're not judged to be bad fathers for prioritizing work. In fact, devoted fathers are expected to prioritize work. But men do face penalties for taking leave. In some cases, men who take leave have returned to find themselves skipped over for raises or promotions -- or even just mocked by coworkers.
As one male consultant told researchers who authored the Boston University paper last year, “The idea of a guy taking paternity leave was just [makes face] for my managers. Guys just don’t do that. They teased me. Then one of the partners said to me, ‘You have a choice to make: Are you going to be a professional or are you going to just be an average person in your field? If you are going to be a professional then that means nothing can be as important to you as your work.’”
Some men at this firm pretended to work 80-hour weeks and snuck off to spend more time with their families to avoid stigma.
In his book All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses -- And How We Can Fix It Together, Josh Levs tells the heartbreaking story of one lawyer who was a rising star at his firm until his pregnant wife attempted suicide. The man took unpaid time off to care for her, and his job was never the same. He was assigned less prestigious work and ultimate fired, Levs wrote in an article for the Harvard Business Review.
“It’s incumbent on companies to start model cultures and create transparency so men feel they can take leave,” Deepa Purushothaman, managing principal for talent and inclusion at Deloitte, told The Huffington Post.
She said that at Deloitte, which offers 8 weeks paid time off to parents regardless of gender, the plan is to make it acceptable for everyone to take time off. There’s particularly focus on male leaders who are expected to be role models, take leave and come back and talk about it.
Purushothaman pointed to the most well-known corporate dad role model out there: Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, who was applauded for taking two months of paternity leave after his daughter was born.
Still, that was only half the amount of paid leave Facebook offers.
Studies have shown, time and again, that paternity leave benefits fathers and children, who build stronger bonds right off the bat. It also helps mothers. When men take leave, that evens the playing field for everyone.
So let's give dads a break at the office -- and at home, too. Far too often, fathers get portrayed as hapless idiots who can't change a diaper, fold the laundry or get the kids to bed.