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Equalities minister launches new government strategy that includes measures for men
There’s plenty for working dads in the government’s new gender equality ‘road map’.
The programme recognises that men suffer from stereotypes as well as women and promises support for measures aimed at dads in the workplace.
The ‘Gender Equality at Every Stage’ report notes that men miss out on time with their family and are put off caring responsibilities due to attitudes about masculinity.
In her introduction to the plan Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt noted that boys and girls are treated differently from birth. She explicitly recognised the downsides for men. “Men can find themselves limited by old fashioned perceptions, particularly around spending time with their children and families.”
The report itself states, “Social norms have an impact on men and boys – expectations about masculinity reinforce gender roles around work and care, can have a negative effect on men’s social and mental wellbeing and quality of life, and sometimes contribute to an environment within which violence and sexual harassment can occur.”
Whilst the strategy drawn up by the Government Equalities Office is focussed on women because they tend to lose out most, particularly financially, from sexism there’s a clear recognition that men are part of the solution.
That’s particularly true of dads. The report states, “We recognise that we won’t close gender gaps in paid work unless we start to tackle gaps in who does unpaid work.”
However news that the long awaited review of shared parental leave which many expected to produce recommendations this autumn will now only be completed by the end of the year suggests the government’s actions are not necessarily keeping up with its good intentions.
Recognising the need to shake up traditional views about how partners split childcare and paid employment the report says, “We want: both parents to take active and well-informed choices about balancing work and care, supported by a fair and clear government offer; employers to create inclusive workplaces fit for the future – showing equal consideration of work-life balance for all employees and facilitating flexible working to retain staff; and infants to reap the known benefits of spending time with both parents.”
There’s a pledge to boost childcare provision and provide a ‘digital tool’ to help working parents understand their options when it comes to shared parental leave. And there’s an official nod to Lib Dem MP Jo Swinson’s backbench bill that would force companies to reveal their parental policies in the same way they must now report their gender pay gap.
More broadly in the world of work the government says it will work to spread best practice and encourage firms to offer enhanced parental leave packages and quality flexible work.
The government has promised more measures to support families as part of its Good Work Plan later in the summer.
Among other measures in the current set of proposals are a promise to tackle gender stereotypes among even the youngest children. The government is also set to launch a review of damaging stereotypes in the media. And there’s a pledge to look at the best ways to engage men and boys on gender issues.
The ‘road map’ for gender equality claims there are benefits for society, individuals, and employers if it’s proposals are followed. It argues that gender equality is good for people’s wellbeing but also for the economy with a potential £55 billion boost to the nation’s coffers just from unlocking women’s potential in the STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – sector.
Launching the plan, Minister for Women and Equalities Penny Mordaunt said, “I want everyone in our country to be able to thrive in life. That means being able to be in control of the choices you make and have the opportunities you have to seize.”
Welcoming the report, Chartered Management Institute CEO, Ann Francke, said: “Gender inequality is a complex issue with many causes rooted throughout education, society, culture and the workplace. The Government’s Gender Equality Roadmap acknowledges this; and breaks down the problem into its many component parts, aiming to offer practical solutions and success measures for each.
“It’s ambitious, comprehensive and collaborative. Well-executed it is a potential game changer and an excellent source of practical insight, policies and advice to help all UK organisations go further, faster to achieve gender balance.”