Working dads urged to speak up on stigmas

Global campaigner Josh Levs says gender equality depends on giving men the opportunity to be caregivers and working dads must make that happen

A microphone on a wooden stool with red curtain in the background


More working dads need to speak out about workplace issues and challenge stigmas. That’s the call from Josh Levs, described sometimes as the world’s foremost expert on fathers in the workplace.

Speaking on the Job Sharing and Beyond podcast he made the case for significant changes in the culture. He said, “Until we give men equal opportunity to be caregivers we will never give women equal opportunity in the workforce.”

He suggested that lawmakers need to change legislation and businesses ought to adopt new policies. More paternity leave is a key one. Lev said that studies show that men who are more involved at the start of their journey as a dad become more comfortable and confident. They are therefore more likely to remain hands on.

But ‘most of all’ stigmas need to be addressed. He said working dads must speak up “every time something is done to damage them, stigmatise them or prevent them doing the work of an equal caregiver.” He added, “I know things can change, that change can be accomplished.”

Working dads

Job Sharing and Beyond is presented by Karin Tischler, who runs D&I consulting firm Emily’s Path. Levs told her how he came to the issue of working dads when he became a father for the third time. His then employer, US TV network CNN, granted 10 weeks of enhanced parental leave to everyone bar dads. So he took to them to court. And he became something of a celebrity in the process. He’s since written a book and shares his expertise on the issue.

He told Tischler that research has found that men are more likely than women to take a pay cut or relocate in search of a better work life balance and more family time. He reckons bosses who make options like flexible working more freely available to mums are driven by good intentions. But they are pandering to stereotypes that dictate women want to be more involved with family life while men do not. That hurts everyone. He explained that if you don’t make the same options available to men you are taking options away from women.

Those stereotypes are what hold men back from asking for and using paternity leave or flexible working. He claims line managers think dads at home are doing nothing rather than getting fully involved in domestic life. Consequently managers are less likely to grant a flexible working request to a dad.

Modelling the alternative

Levs’ Tedx talk was titled The Men Can’t Myth. In it he sets out the way reality differs from myth around working dads. For example he says the overwhelming proportion of men say caring and being a loving father are the most important things to them. Showing that side of masculinity, speaking up and modelling the alternative are important. He explained that the best way to build gender equality is to raise kids seeing it.

Lev says we need ‘to normalise how men are’ and realise that men who are not toxic are not exceptional.

Tischler suggested that as a counterpoint to ‘bring your kids to work’ days there ought to be a day when bosses see their employees at home to understand their domestic responsibilities. The vast take up of home working due to Covid may address that. However Lev emphasised that the current situation is not like regular flexible working. Parents are unlikely to be as productive as they can be when they are having to simultaneously home school their children.

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