June 17, 2016

Many men in the US are still afraid to take parental leave

Men still think their careers will suffer if they take parental leave, according to a new survey carried out on behalf of Deloitte, the global audit, consulting, tax, and advisory service provider.

Whilst parental leave policies offering the same amount of time off to all new parents are on the rise, Deloitte’s online poll of 1,000 employed adults with access to employer benefits across the US found that fewer than half of respondents feel their company fosters an environment in which men are comfortable taking parental leave.

Over a third feel that taking parental leave will jeopardize their position; many more worry about being perceived as not being fully committed to their job (57% of male respondents) or losing out on project opportunities (41%). Women have, of course, historically been penalized in all of these ways.

The majority of respondents (64%) still believe that companies should offer men and women the same amount of parental leave. However, 54%—regrettably reinforcing gender stereotypes—feel their colleagues would judge a father who took the same amount of parental leave as a mother.

Speaking to Bloomberg Businessweek, Deepa Purushothaman, the head of Deloitte’s Women’s Initiative, notes that part of the point of providing leave for fathers is to distribute parental responsibilities more evenly, so it’s not just women taking the career hit.

According to the OECD, countries that offer more liberal parental leave policies have larger pay gaps, because women tend to take more time off than men. The absence from the office of men and women alike therefore theoretically helps close the gender pay gap.

Nina Smith broaches the division of family responsibilities in her IZA World of Labor paper on gender quotas on boards of directors. She feels that policymakers should focus on “getting a more balanced gender division of careers within the family, for instance by encouraging more fathers to take advantage of parental leave schemes” in order to improve the gender balance in organizations, specifically at board level.

Related articles:
Gender quotas on boards of directors, by Nina Smith
My husband and I were equal partners—then we had a baby, by Brigid Schulte
Do childcare policies increase maternal employment?, by Daniela Vuri
Equal pay legislation and the gender wage gap, by Solomon W. Polachek
Parental employment and children’s academic achievement, by Hannah Schildberg-Hörisch