Companies are becoming more generous with family-friendly benefits, but in many cases they have a catch. They are awarded not to all parents of young children, but to so-called primary caregivers.
At many companies, primary caregivers get much longer leaves and other benefits. And most often, those who identify themselves this way are women.
Yet in families where both parents plan to work full time and share child-rearing responsibilities, the designation can end up enforcing more traditional gender roles. That can potentially hurt women’s careers.
“I’ve never liked the notion of primary caregiver, because it does force families to choose,” said Ellen Galinsky, president and co-founder of the Families and Work Institute, a research group. “It’s defining gender roles when in reality men are being much more involved.”
Ms. Galinsky acknowledged that responsibilities were rarely completely equal but said that parents needed flexibility.
“I’ve never believed in 50/50, because 50/50 is probably no one’s real life,” she said. “It’s a seesaw. It goes back and forth.”
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