[article] Mandatory Paternity Leave: The Key to Workplace Equality (repost from Forbes)

September 26, 2020

These countries forging ahead with meaningful and in some cases, mandated, paternity leave aren't just creating equality in the home, they are indirectly creating more equal work places filled with greater opportunity for women. This guy is speaking my language!


"Switzerland recently passed a law that mandates new fathers take paternity leave... Why require men to take leave when they are not clamoring for it?"

There was strong resistance from the far right in Switzerland but ultimately, the measure passed and ultimately, the government understood that men may not be clamoring for it because they don't feel they have permission to use it. Thus the need for mandates.

"It makes a small step toward the much more assertive programs to encourage men to take parental leave, such as Sweden’s Parental Leave Act, which gives several additional months of leave to families where both parents take leave. Sweden’s goal was to get women to work and men behind strollers. Switzerland’s ten days seems small change in contrast, but its paternity leave mandate will truly advance work-life balance."

And of course, this mandate comes down to stigma.

"Why do we have to force men to take leave?  Because men fear the intense stigma of prioritizing their family over work. Work must hold an absolute priority over their lives."

"They miss such experiences not only for work, but also seem to display their availability for work. Although women form nearly half the workforce in most developed countries, men continue to hold the overwhelming majority of management positions, both in the private and public sectors, thanks to Total Devotion."

"Total Devotion prevents men from taking parental leave, even when paid, and even when officially encouraged by an employer. Relatively few men take parental leave. They’re scared of the judgment of their male colleagues – that they are more beholden to their spouse (usually their wives) or children rather than their (usually male) boss or a client. The resulting stigma basically subjects men who take leave to the motherhood penalty."

So again, even if paternity leave is offered we have created such a stigma around caregiving for men and stressed the importance of men prioritizing careers to the point where unless it is mandated, you might as well not have it. Men not only need to know they can take it but that they should take it...and when that doesn't work, that they have to take it. 

"Parents who serve as caregivers face foregoing interesting work, salary advancement, promotion and other benefits. Work is a competition, and taking leave is laying down one’s arms. It then becomes necessary to force men to take leave. The mandate frees men from having to make the decision themselves. They will not seem to be playing hooky, because the law requires it."

It may seem crazy that men have to be made to take it but how can we be surprised when there is even the slightest chance that men would be seen as "playing hooky" when they are performing caregiving duties?

"But this statute is not just special rights for men. We live in a human ecosystem: allowing men to take leave affects everyone else in the workplace."

"All women face the motherhood penalty, and forcing men to take leave, neutralizes caregiving, reducing the work stigma that comes with family commitments. That penalty harms women even if they never intend to become mothers, as bosses refrain from giving women good work because they may leave. Women who do have children and take leave also step off the track. As a result, they earn far less - around 80% of what men make, and less than that for high-paying jobs."

"If heterosexual cisgender women and men take parental leave in equal numbers, it will diminish the meaning of sex, because their roles, in family and then in work, will prove more similar. If cisgender women and men share both care and work responsibilities, the binary – the difference between the sexes – will come to mean less. In this sense, mandatory parental leave - for all sexes - will unsex  our lives."

We live in a society so fearful of mandates even when it is something that is helping to protect us (see the entire mask debate) but ultimately paternity leave can't really be normalized unless people take it and they won't take it if it isn't mandated.

And then Rosenblum dropped this truth bomb...

 "We all resisted wearing seatbelts when they became mandatory, but now it’s so universal, it’s invisible."

And this one...

"We all benefit – even those of us who don’t have kids – from a world in which we are free to do anything regardless of our sex."

I like this guy. And mandated paternity leave.

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