Why we need men to walk the talk for gender equality at work

10 November 2016

The Fatherhood Institute is supporting #Walkthetalk, a campaign that calls on men to take a stand and ‘walk the talk’ for gender equality in the workplace.

Our chairman Will McDonald features in a video clip on the #Walkthetalk website and we will be following the campaign, organised by O2 and Greengrass Consulting, with interest.

We support the campaign because it fits with our policy goals:

1.       The next step for gender equality in Britain is that we need greater support from government and employers, for men to be active, hands-on dads. Without this, women will always be held back in the workplace, and shouldered with most of the responsibility for looking after children. The UK is the worst in the developed world at this, as shown by our Fairness in Families Index (2016): men do 24 minutes’ childcare for every 60 mins done by women.

2.       A key way we can bring about change is to reform the structures around parenting, like parenting leave, in order to bring about more equitable sharing of hands-on childcare and earning by mums and dads. We need a Scandinavian-type system where dads have their own individual entitlement to substantial, well-paid leave during their child’s first year. This leave should be reserved for dads, and should be lost to the family if they don’t take it.

3.       Because men often hold positions of influence in the workplace, we need men to ‘walk the talk’ by creating workplaces that encourage men to be active fathers and protect women against the ‘motherhood penalty’. There are a range of ways men can do this:

  • Men in senior roles could look seriously at the business case for closing the gender pay gap and redesigning their organisations’ parenting leave systems. Key changes could include enhancing shared parental leave for either parent to the same extent as they enhance maternity leave; promoting flexible working approaches explicitly to men in the workforce; and enabling male employees to ‘come out’ as dads.
  • Senior managers who are dads could take substantial leave during their child’s first year, to help encourage others to do so. The more visible ‘boardroom dads’ become, the more dads in other parts of the organisation will feel free to open up about their aspirations for a better work-life balance.
  • Men at all levels could support each others’ attempts to balance work with hands-on fatherhood. Male line managers could ensure they take male employees’ flexible working requests as seriously as female employees’ requests, for example; and they could help level the playing field by asking male employees about their children to the same extent they ask female employees.

To get involved, visit the Walkthetalk website and follow on Twitter @walkthetalkinfo.

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