February 29 proposals

Tradition dictates that certain gender roles are reversed on February 29. Why stop at proposals of marriage?

Close up a calendar on February 29 on a leap year


I’ve previously used a daft press release as the hook for one of these columns.

I could just call out nonsense every week. I won’t. But I can’t let the press release that claimed one in three women in a relationship is planning to pop the question on February 29 go by.

So if you’re in a relationship but unmarried apparently there’s a one in three chance your partner will propose tomorrow. No matter how long that relationship has been going whether it’s weeks or years. That’s an AWFUL LOT of weddings about to happen.

I admit, in part I’m drawing attention to the silly press release just because it was so daft. (PRs, if you’re reading this, you need an eye-catching stat in your release, not an outlandish one. It’s a fine line.) But also because it was centred on February 29, the day on which gender roles are apparently reversed.

Now there’s an opportunity.


As ever patriarchal tradition only affords women so much freedom. Proposing seems to be the extent of the permission granted to upend stereotypes.

But what about if men could also use the leap day to rethink gender roles.

For example, Timewise published their annual Power 50 list of top part timers this week. There’s a growing number of men on the list. But that brings with it a danger to consider the issue of equality closed.

It’s like dads at Rhymetime. When one turns up he’s regarded as unusual. When a couple of dads turn up to sing Wind the Bobbin Up their presence is overvalued. There’s evidence that in a room of say 18 mums and two dads people asked afterwards say the ration was about half and half.

So, by my count, 11 men on the part time Power List looks good. But let’s not lose sight of the fact they are outnumbered nearly four to one by women. The message is clear – more senior men are going part time but mainly part time is for women.

It’s also noticeable looking at the Power List that while women work all sorts of different part time patterns men tend to do a four day week. Is it then just a coincidence that the idea of a four day week is gaining traction? If men had decided they like job shares would we instead be seeing political heft gathering behind a campaign to advertise all jobs as job share for example?

Happy ever after

Imagine a world instead where that list of executives adopting part time working was equal or, better, dominated by men. Imagine there were 39 men on the list and 11 women. OK, in the first instance that might raise questions around equal opportunity and discrimination. But we need more men to think about changing their work pattern. It’s good for men, who get to spend more time with their family and enjoy better mental health. And it’s good for gender equality more broadly if men and women are genuinely sharing the mental load of domestic life.

If you are one of the millions of men who is going to get proposed to tomorrow you’re going to have other things on your mind.

But if you’re not then why not take February 29 to think about what gender stereotypes you could invert.

The marriage proposal thing ends with some people living happily ever after. If we working dads put forward some proposals of our own – for a flexible working pattern, a job share, or a scheme to increase gender equality as demonstrated in this story from earlier in the week – all of us, married, unmarried or any other setup might also engender more happy ever afters

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