Working women everywhere fear the motherhood penalty. They step out of the workforce to have a child and return to stalled careers. They’re continually asked to prove (and reprove) their worth, ability and commitment to employers. Eventually, many women are pushed to leave their jobs entirely.
This doesn’t have to be the case. A recent survey of almost 800 working fathers in the UK found that if the father plays an equal or main role in caregiving, his partner is 80% more likely to progress her career after having children. The gender gap is lowest in countries like Iceland and Sweden, where it’s normal for men to take parental leave. These same countries rank highest for women’s labour force participation. If you think this is coincidence… it’s not. Studies of Canadian (Quebec) and Swedish parental leave policies have shown that when men take longer parental leave, there are more women at work.
"When both women and men have a real opportunity to be caregivers, they also get equal opportunity to stay at work and advance their careers." (Josh Levs, working fatherhood champion)
Why? One part of the answer is that when an engaged father is pulling his weight at home, it’s easier for a women to come into work every day there is less guilt, and fewer physical and emotional burdens. Additionally, it’s clear that in countries where men accept parenting as a truly shared responsibility, discrimination against working mothers declines.
The bottom line: Women who want to improve gender parity in the workplace should encourage the fathers they know and love to take parental leave.