Tuesday, February 12 08:52:59
Men are still working vastly more hours than women , particularly in the US where hours worked is still a daily pressure on employees. The trend is also evident in Europe and the consequence is that fathers spend a lot less time with their families than mothers. As a result, it's little surprise that fathers actually now report higher levels of work-family conflict than mothers do. In a 2011 study, the Families and Work Institute found that 60 percent of fathers in dual-earner households say they experience some or a lot of work-life conflict, compared with just 35 percent in 1977. Meanwhile, the level of work-life conflict reported by similar working mothers has not changed significantly in three decades.
Why don't more men push for change? The answer is what I call the "flexibility stigma." The topic may be one that's traditionally associated with women, but in a forthcoming special publication of the Journal of Social Issues I'm co-editing, four of the nine articles actually address how much such policies impact men. What's the bottom line from the researchers' findings? Men face as many struggles when it comes to using flexible work policies - if not more - because child care, fairly or unfairly, is still seen as being a feminine role.
This is not the first time researchers have looked at how men fare when it comes to flexibility at work. In 2003, one group found that men who ask for family leave suffer more negative reactions than women who ask for the same. The next year, another study found that men who took even a short time off for family reasons were given lower recommendations and poorer overall performance ratings. A few years later, researchers found that as long as a father can avoid looking like he has child-care responsibilities, having kids actually helps his career. He is given higher starting salaries than a childless man and is held to lower performance and punctuality standards according to Joan C. Williams is the founding director of the Center for WorkLife Law and a professor at the University of California, Hastings College of Law.
Unfortunately, even in today's world of stay-at-home dads and dual-income households, "who wears the pants in your house?" continues to be the operative logic in many cases when men request family leave or flexibility. It's a sobering message for employers: creating such policies is only half the battle. Until workplaces eliminate the stigma often associated with these benefits - for men as well as women - leaders will only be addressing half the problem for half their workforce. There is often flexibility shown by employers towards mothers needing to attend children's events however the same flexibility is not always available to fathers seeking to increase their time spent with families.
Report by Cathal O Dubhain