It may sound counterintuitive, but one of the best things a company can do to promote women at work is give men more benefits — particularly paternity leave.
Not five days off in a row. That’s just extra vacation time. I’m talking about a long stretch of time off so new fathers can be home with their new babies. The same amount of time that mothers get when they have a baby. And companies can’t just announce that leave is available, they must do everything possible to convince men to take it. Otherwise they won’t.
A tiny number of enlightened firms have done this.
There’s little doubt that paternity leave is great for fathers, fostering a deeper bond with a child and a greater level of empathy for his partner. Less explored is the way giving leave to everyone lessens the stigma and the penalties women face at work when they become moms and begin the endless work/family juggle.
Many companies don’t encourage dads to take leave — even if there is a policy in place, the culture hasn’t caught up. Yet modern-day fathers want to be involved at home and take leave, as a recent report from the Families and Work Institute notes. Three-quarters of new dads take just week or less. Some fear it’ll damage their careers to take a lot of time off. (And there’s evidence that happens.) Others need to keep working because there’s no other source of income.
When a guy takes time off for a baby, it’s 11 percent more likely that the next father-to-be in his workplace will also take leave, according to a study of fathers in Norway cited by the Families and Work Institute. If the coworker is a manager, the contagion effect is even stronger.
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