Christmas is a time for hope and faith. The effort to achieve equality for working dads and their families will require both
All I want for Christmas is gender equality.
This week the Fawcett Society published a report looking at how that might be achieved. It focussed on the damaging effects of gender stereotypes in early years. As co-author of book The Gender Agenda I gave evidence to the commission that put the report together. The final document, titled Unlimited Potential, is an excellent summation of the issues and what needs to be done to make things better.
Working dads were a core focus. The report called for ‘dad friendly workplaces’ that encourage and support men who want to take extended paternity leave and Shared Parental Leave (see this cracking case study for why Shared Parental Leave really matters). And it stated, “Government should equalise parental leave and create a longer, better paid period of non-transferable leave reserved for dads and ‘second’ carers.” Almost as if they cribbed that straight from my other book Dads Don’t Babysit. It’s exactly the stuff we want to see at workingdads.co.uk, the sort of thing dads can have via the jobs advertised on our site by dad friendly employers.
The Unlimited Potential report was the perfect early Christmas present.
Unfortunately, a couple of days later the Grinch showed up in the shape of Liz Truss. The actual Secretary of State for women and equalities gave a remarkable speech suggesting a focus on gender equality was ‘fashionable’. All that I work towards dismissed as a fad. Quite the kick in the baubles.
However it’s Christmas. A time to believe in the unbelievable. The nativity surely is about finding light in the darkness, hope in an unlikely place, fostering faith.
And that’s what I choose to do at the end of a difficult year. For most decent folk equality is unarguably a good thing and a goal. I know from my work in this field and my contacts in business that there’s still huge interest in diversity and inclusion. In fact 2021 may be a good time to start a business in the D&I field. I’ve heard demand for training on topics like race, gender, family friendly policies is outstripping supply at the moment.
Firms have adapted to accommodate working parents in the pandemic, they won’t and don’t want to undo the change in outlook that’s brought about. The economy may have needed life support from government but it got a shot of empathy from ordinary people.
And the numbers are in our favour. Research this year has shown that productivity certainly doesn’t dip when folk work from home, it stays steady or increases. And bear in mind that home working this year was often accompanied by homeschooling and always infected by overarching Covid concerns that inevitably consumed time, ability and brain power.
Giving men more paternity leave makes them happier and healthier. It also frees up their partners to pursue the career they wish. The boost to the nation’s coffers from gender equality at home and in the workplace runs into the billions.
The much needed recovery won’t be fuelled by culture war soundbites. It can be driven by measures to achieve gender equality. We’ll be making the case for the latter and weighing in with our ‘build back better’ plan in the new year.
But for now it’s time for a break. We’ve all earned it this year. I’ve still got a few days of work before I hit the finishing line and there’ll be interesting articles going on this site through the festive period. Do check in for a read. But most of all have a restful, peaceful and happy Christmas.