From the editor: the lawnmower of gender equality

Unlike WD-40 there’s no secret formula for making the world of work better for mums and dads


It’s that time of year when the lawn seems to constantly need mowed. It’s a boring job, one’s mind wanders. Inevitably my brain picks up the usual topics – working dads, gender equality, how to get bitten by a radioactive spider.

See, the roller thing on the front of my lawnmower (yes, I’m that technical) is a bit stiff. It probably needs some WD-40. Applying WD-40 is the extent of my DIY expertise. (Though I did once write a feature about WD-40 and it’s fascinating stuff – it doesn’t contain fish oil, it doesn’t cure arthritis but it was once used to remove a python from a bus).

And that’s a bit like gender equality in the workplace.

Except in the world of work there’s two rollers.

Diversity and inclusion

There’s a lot of time, money and effort going into getting one of them running smoothly. We’ll call that the female roller and instead of WD-40 it’s D&I being applied: Diversity and Inclusion. This is a good thing. And yet while things have improved it still requires significant effort just to get the thing turning, and turning slowly at that. This week came the depressing news that no nation will achieve gender equality in the next decade and for most it’ll take generations.

And yet it would only take a little effort to get the other roller whirring – the male roller.

To be clear I’m not advocating taking money away from projects helping women into the workplace or to stay in employment or to boost their progress up the hierarchy in companies. I’m advocating more money for projects that help men achieve the work life balance they want.

We know men, particularly millennials, are demanding more flexible workplaces. So give them what they want.

Flexible working

More flexible working focussed on getting the job done rather than the performance of showing you’re working.

More generous paternity leave packages so fathers can get involved from the start and feel that parenthood is a process rather than an event and they can get the practice to give them the confidence to fully engage in that process.

As men are more involved in the home that frees up women from domestic duties and allows them to power ahead in employment. (And by the way we’ll be discussing how domestic duties are divvied up and why it matters in our next Facebook chat, 7.30, Monday June 10 at the Facebook page. Please join in.)

It may feel counterintuitive but get the male part of the machine working properly and you remove perhaps the biggest obstruction interfering with the smooth operation of the female part. It’s like a piece of plastic twine wrapped around the motor. Snip it and a surge of power will suddenly be diverted to the female part allowing it to turn freely. With both bits working efficiently the whole machine can roar into life and you end up with a lawnmower that works well and is also happy. Which is kind of where the analogy, unlike the lawnmower, breaks down because you can’t really have happy machinery. But you can have happy people, and gender equal employment, letting men as well as women work in the way that suits them best is key to achieving that.

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