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Let’s celebrate involved fatherhood this International Women’s Day

The Fatherhood Institute’s vision is of a society that gives all children a strong and positive relationship with their father and any father-figures; supports both mothers and fathers as earners and carers; and prepares boys and girls for a future shared role in caring for children.

Fathers’ positive involvement can bring many benefits to their children. But it matters to mothers too – helping shape their mothering and their own relationship with their baby, and enabling a more gender-equal division of care and domestic work.


That’s why for us, the drive for involved fatherhood is a key component of a gender-equal world – a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. Gender-equity underpins all our work, including our Time with Dad campaign to improve support for fathers.


This International Women’s Day, we’re taking the opportunity to celebrate six outstanding women who share our vision, and are transforming our world for the good of all through their work researching, writing about, and campaigning for, involved fatherhood.


We asked each of these change-makers why supporting men as involved fathers and caregivers matters to them, to women, and to society.

 
Dr Helen Norman

Dr Helen Norman is a Senior Research Fellow at Leeds University Business School. Her research focuses on fathers and fatherhood, the gendered division of labour and gender inequalities in work, employment and family life.


Q: Why does supporting men as involved fathers and caregivers matter to you, to women, and to society?

“Involved fatherhood is a strategy for gender equality. Women are disadvantaged in paid and domestic work because they tend to assume primary responsibility for childcare and housework. Supporting men to be involved fathers – through the sharing of care and domestic responsibilities – contributes to a more gender equal division of labour, which directly supports women, and has multiple benefits for fathers and children.”

To learn more about Dr Norman’s work, please visit her project website: PIECE (Paternal Involvement and its Effects on Children’s Education), in partnership with the Fatherhood Institute.

 
Dr Jasmine Kelland

Dr Jasmine Kelland is an academic and author at the University of Plymouth. Her work on the ‘fatherhood forfeit’ has been widely cited within the press (such as The Guardian and The Times), by professional bodies (such as CIPD), government Select Committee reports, and media outlets (such as Sky News and BBC Radio).


Q: Why does supporting men as involved fathers and caregivers matter to you, to women, and to society?

“Whilst some progress has been made regarding equality in the UK, equality for parents remains very challenging. One of the key reasons for this in my view is that fathers are not supported as caregivers in the workplace and routinely face challenges, such as ‘fatherhood forfeits’. These challenges push women towards the role of primary carer regardless of their career, working hours or wishes. Wider support of men in caregiving roles will enable gender equality for both parents to improve.”

To learn more about Dr Kelland, please visit her university profile. She recently published her first book, entitled ‘Caregiving Fathers in the Workplace: Organisational Experiences and the Fatherhood Forfeit’ – you can learn more here.

 
Jane van Zyl

Jane van Zyl, Chief Executive of Working Families, has 18 years’ experience working in the third sector and has held senior leadership positions at a number of UK charities, including Samaritans and Sands. She believes in the value of a fulfilling, balanced working life and its transformative power to create social connections, build self-esteem, and impact the wider community.


Q: Why does supporting men as involved fathers and caregivers matter to you, to women, and to society?

“We can’t achieve gender equality without supporting men to be involved fathers and caregivers. If fathers aren’t empowered to share the load at home, then we will never escape the ‘motherhood penalty’, which leaves many women’s careers in tatters from the years of managing childcare. And we can’t change the narrative that part-time work is inferior without a shift that sees both men and women enjoying its benefits.”

To learn more about Jane’s work at Working Families please visit their website.

 
Professor Tina Miller

Tina Miller is a Professor of Sociology at Oxford Brookes University whose research spans sociology of family lives, gender, identities and caring and family disruptions. She has been an advisor at the World Health Organisation and contributed to think tanks and parliamentary and EU committees, as well as publishing widely on experiences of fatherhood and motherhood.


Q: Why does supporting men as involved fathers and caregivers matter to you, to women, and to society?

“Men’s capacities to care for their children in practical and loving ways is well documented and has all sorts of benefits. Becoming a father marks a rich, pivotal moment of personal change, and an opportunity for broader social change. But structures continue to assume female caregiving and lock women in and men out. A fairer society needs to recognise men’s caring, too.”

To learn more about Prof Miller, please visit her university profile. You can listen to her recent BBC Radio 4 Analysis podcast in which she asks whether society and its structures are still trapping women in caring roles, both paid and unpaid, while men are kept out.

She recently co-wrote (with Prof Esther McDermott) a chapter in ‘Men and Welfare’, entitled ‘Being a Father and a Refugee: New Social Worlds of Welfare and Integration’

 
Nikki van der Gaag

Nikki van der Gaag is an independent consultant and Senior Fellow at Equimundo. She is the author and co-author of a number of books and reports including Patriarchy in Practice, Feminism and Men, four State of the World’s Fathers reports, and six State of the World’s Girls reports.


Q: Why does supporting men as involved fathers and caregivers matter to you, to women, and to society?

“My interest in masculinities and fatherhood comes from my longstanding work on women’s and girl’s rights around the world. It is clear to me that we will never achieve gender equality – or end violence against women – without the involvement of men and boys, not just as allies, but as equal partners in caring for the next generation.”

Nikki’s latest book, released last month, is ‘Patriarchy in Practice: Ethnographies of Everyday Masculinities’, coedited with Amir Massoumian and Dan Nightingale.

 
Dr Anna Machin

Dr Anna Machin is an evolutionary anthropologist who is world renowned for her research into the science and anthropology of human fatherhood. She is the author of The Life of Dad: The Making of the Modern Father and is passionate about sharing the outcomes of her work to empower fathers to be confident and equal parents, and to campaign to gain recognition and support for the unique role dads play in their children’s lives.


Q: Why does supporting men as involved fathers and caregivers matter to you, to women, and to society?

“We know that men are as biologically primed to parent as women, that they build attachments which are just as strong as, but uniquely and importantly different from, mum and that they have a unique and separate role to play in their child’s development. As a society we need to acknowledge dads as the great untapped child and adolescent mental health taskforce: their special role in building resilience can reduce the risk of loneliness, low self-esteem and depression in our youngsters.

To learn more about Dr Machin’s work please visit her website.

 

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