At an event at the LSE this week dads spoke up about their experiences of Shared Parental Leave. And it was great.
A couple of weeks ago Marks and Spencer announced poorer than anticipated Christmas sales. This was blamed on buying in too many slim fit clothes for men, that didn’t sell. I couldn’t resist tweeting about it.
Do you ever get imposter syndrome? Feel everyone else knows what they’re doing? The boss of M&S thought the fat middle aged men who shop there (guilty as charged) were all going to buy skinny jeans. Bear that in mind. https://t.co/7iKsQER17t
— James Millar (@PoliticalYeti) January 9, 2020
Imposter syndrome is often associated with the young, speeding their way up the career ladder. Or with women, still struggling to feel at home in workplaces that have been set up for too long for men.
But everyone is susceptible. Men just have an extra ingredient in that it’s harder to admit to it.
Men often look like they fit in. So how can they feel like they don’t? Isn’t it awkward to admit they’d rather be at home with their family?
I was thinking about imposter syndrome as I made my way to the London School Economics to give a lecture this week.
I know. Me, giving a lecture, at the LSE.
I’d been asked to talk about Shared Parental Leave. Something I’ve no direct experience of, because it wasn’t invented when my kids were born. But something I know a lot about, having written a book with a whole chapter on it. (Have I mentioned before that I’ve written a book??..)
The LSE is a top seat of learning. I had to tuck my imposter syndrome aside and keep telling myself I am an expert and I have a voice that is worth listening to.
In the event, I got only positive feedback. Gratifying.
But the event itself was quite brilliant and worth dwelling on. It was hosted by the LSE’s ‘Parents and Carers Network’. The institution’s ‘Male Allies Network’ was involved too. I was impressed not just that they have a Male Allies Network, but that it’s apparently around 50 strong.
What made the event so good was that after listening to me talking about Shared Parental Leave – the benefits of shared parenting, the barriers men face and the steps we can all take to normalise it – four dads that have taken it spoke about their experiences.
I’d said in my talk that men need to speak up about Shared Parental Leave and the joys of parenting. These four dads did just that.
I said most dads that took SPL enjoyed it – uniformly the four dads said they didn’t regret it at all.
I said role modelling is important. One dad said he hadn’t really thought about SPL until his boss took it raising awareness and signalling that it was OK to do it.
I said men will take extra leave if it’s properly funded. LSE provides 16 weeks off at full pay and so these dads took advantage of that.
I said dads often don’t take SPL because of finances. The father is invariably the breadwinner, so it’s a bigger step down for the family if he takes SPL at £150 per week. One dad explained part of the reason he’d taken SPL is because his partner earned more than him, so for them it would’ve been a bigger step down if she’d stayed off.
I said women who return to work sooner tend to make more progress in their career. One dad said his partner had received a promotion shortly after her return to work. And he was sure that wouldn’t have happened if she’d taken a year out rather than six months.
Basically their practice fitted my theory.
So on a personal level it was a triumph. But it wasn’t about me. (Really.) It was incredibly impressive and rewarding to hear men talking about taking more leave, about liking it and encouraging more men to follow their example.
That’s how we move forward and make things better for everyone. Be bold. Speak up. And remember your voice has value.