When we talk about addressing the challenges of balancing work and family, the conversation is often framed as a women’s issue. In response, we’ve seen enterprises make plans and implement programs designed to support working moms.
These initiatives accomplish important work. Family-friendly benefits, like paid maternity leave and child care assistance, have proven valuable in terms of recruiting and retaining female talent, improving gender diversity and driving the bottom line.
But in many cases there’s something missing. It’s obvious, yet often overlooked. It’s dads.
Today’s dads do more than earn a paycheck. They’re engaged parents rising to the challenge of raising a modern family. They want – and expect – work-life supports from their employers, and forward-thinking companies are the ones who recognize this.
Let’s take a look at five reasons companies need to dial into the modern dads movement:
- Modern Families – and Their Employers – Struggle With “Mad Men” Era Policies
Dual-income families used to be the exception, now they’re the rule. Today, about two-thirds of couples with children under 18 are in dual-earning households – that’s up from about half of households in 1970. After decades of increasing educational and professional achievements of women, we have a generation of men marrying women with career prospects equal to or greater than their own. Millennial moms and dads want to share work and family responsibilities equally. But our modern families – and their employers – struggle when workplace policies are stuck in the Mad Men era. In a recent survey of Fortune 1,000 employees, we found that 90 percent of employees have left work, and 30 percent have cut back by six or more hours per week, due to family responsibilities. For their employers, this translates to costly absenteeism, productivity loss and a hit to the bottom line that could have been prevented with flexibility and family care benefits.
- Dads Want Help With Work-Life Integration
For modern dads, being more involved in household responsibilities than generations past doesn’t mean they’re working less. As the Dads@Work survey revealed, 89 percent of dads reported working more than 40 hours a week, while 30 percent log more than 50. At the same time, about a third of these working dads spend 16-plus hours with their children each week. Nearly half of working dads we surveyed felt their employers should do more to support working parents. In particular, they identified child care assistance (55 percent) and paid parental leave (50 percent) as key areas where their companies could do more.
- Recruiting, Retention and Employer Branding
Dads have been getting a lot of attention this year – in advertising, in media and, increasingly, in the business world as well. Mark Zuckerberg’s paternity leave, Fatherly’s Best Places to Work for New Dads list and recent momentum around gender-neutral parental leave are just a few indicators that the workplace could be approaching peak fatherhood. What will this mean for employers? We can expect supports for working dads to play an increasingly important role in recruiting, retention and employer branding efforts. A survey by the Boston College Center for Work and Family found 89 percent of fathers said if they were considering a career move it would be important that the employer provided paid paternity leave. Sixty percent of respondents indicated paternity leave would be extremely important or very important. Care.com’s own research has shown 62 percent of employees – and 83 percent of Millennials – would leave a job for better benefits, and about 70 percent of working parents say the cost of child care has influenced their career decisions.
- Gender Equality at Home, Gender Diversity at Work
Given the data on families and work, it’s time to stop qualifying “working moms” and “working dads,” for that matter. We need to acknowledge working is the reality for today’s parents, and we need to adjust our systems to support engaged caregivers. Stripping away perceptions of gender norms – namely, that dad’s at work while mom’s at home with the kids – allows us to promote gender equality at home and gender diversity at work. By adopting gender-neutral family-care benefits, progressive employers are able to support families and drive business results though reduced absenteeism, improved productivity and higher engagement. Further, creating a culture in which neither moms nor dads are penalized for being parents can improve gender parity, which strengthens a company and our economy. For evidence in support of this theory we can look to Sweden, where a 2010 study found mothers’ future earnings increased 7 percent for every month of parental leave that her partner took.
- Benefits Equality Matters
Speaking of equality, as an HR leader it’s important to strike a balance with your benefits and total rewards. A successful program should support all of your employees equally – whether you’re looking at moms and dads or pet parents or employees caring for aging parents. A program designed to support all employees eliminates the sense of inequity and resentment that can crop up when populations feel underserved in comparison to others.
The new reality for most families is that both parents work. Sixty percent of households have no stay-at-home parent and 93 percent of dads work outside of the home. The traditional division between our work lives and our homes lives is disappearing, but our societal, and cultural conventions are not keeping up with the realities most families face today.
Dads are looking for their employers’ support to allow them the day-to-day involvement with their families. In today’s marketplace business leaders must build company cultures that encourage both women and men as engaged parents.