Father’s Day is coming up, and people around the country will be celebrating the important role fathers and father figures play in raising children, yet the fact remains that mothers still bear more of the burden of childcare.
Fewer than 5% of fathers in the US take two weeks or more of parental leave, partly because the US is the only industrialized country on the planet without universal paid family leave. But even in work environments with gracious leave options, fathers decline to take leave because of the associated stigma.
Worse still, women tend to suffer the consequences of parental leave known as the “motherhood penalty”—the hit to finances and career growth that occurs when women are not given flexibility for the predictable and unpredictable nature of being a mother.
Through regular practice, employers and fathers can help improve access to parental leave and alleviate the stigma associated with taking leave in order to promote parental equity.
For example, employers can expand parental leave options and encourage everyone to use them. As entrepreneur and paternity leave advocate Alexis Ohanian put it, this business decision will help everyone bring their best selves to work, which improves outcomes. Senior leaders can and should lead by example.
Fathers or fathers-to-be can contribute to destigmatizing parental leave by doing so themselves. Fathers who take paternity leave can benefit from increased bonding with their child and partner. However, this action also helps make it less costly for working women to take leave as well.
This Father’s Day, men – or non-birthing parents – as well as their employers should reflect on helping to level the playing field for all forms of parenting. This reflection can help to contribute to an equitable workplace – something well worth celebrating on Father’s Day.
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