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Gender equality and the post-lockdown workplace

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Han-Son Lee writes what gender equality in a post-lockdown workplace should mean.

Lockdown has brought about many reflections for our day to day lives. Out of work especially, it has given us pause for reflection on some of the areas of life we perhaps took for granted previously – visiting the shops, seeing loved ones, etc.

At work, it has perhaps brought just as much reflection for the type of work/life, we as modern day dads, really want post any kind of new normal returning.

I wonder if there’s an even bigger opportunity afoot – are we now seeing the shoots of a wider debate around gender equality at work?

Gender equality isn’t just for mums/women

The theme of gender equality in the workplace has been a growing area of focus for many workplaces over the last few years.

It has, rightly, started with a focus on women at work – on breaking down previously institutionalised barriers that have created often unnecessary barriers to women (and mothers especially) at work.

But as we’re seeing more and more equality at home in modern day family, shouldn’t we as dads now start to realise how we can shape the future of gender equality at work for ourselves too in shaping what modern families really look like?

Dads are demanding different ways of working

We recently completed a research piece on Dads in Lockdown, and found that

  • 76 per cent of dads have been involved in day to day parenting during lockdown
  • 32 per cent  spending more quality time with their children. 
  • Many were involved in activities including: cleaning up (70 per cent), day to day play (83 per cent), family cooking (67 per cent), home-schooling (51 per cent), and the bedtime routine (45 per cent).

Interestingly, 25 per cent also reported that they were looking for more flexible working immediately post-lockdown, and a further 16 per cent were exploring more remote working post-lockdown too.

It’s clear that modern day dads are actively thinking about a shift, but beyond just a flexible working request – is there something wider across the organization that we need to create?

Gender equality at work isn’t a like for like

I think it’s important to note that gender equality between mums and dads isn’t necessarily a like for like comparison. The barriers that have faced many women around workplace progression simply won’t have been experienced by the vast majority of men in the same way.

However, my biggest hope is that both mums and dads realise soon that though their gender equality battles are different, they actually face the same barrier – an out of date corporate cultures. It’s something grounded too in the very best dad books, but we can go one step further now…

Similarities with SPL

When Shared Parental Leave (SPL) was first announced almost five years ago, it was met with much excitement, but also confusion with dads and employers.

The take up rates in those first two to three years were reported around the 2 per cent mark, largely because the policy didn’t address the root issue – our workplace cultures were simply not ready for them.

The first wave of dads who took it, and went through many, many arduous strains in doing so, have set the pathway to more success for the SPL dads that have followed, but now we must go one step further.

Gender equality – getting the future right

So how can we start to think about gender equality for dads. Here are three starters for ten:

  • Make dadlife a big thing at work – challenge any pre-conceived perception you see that ‘dads should just be at work’ –  not by fighting fire with fire, but by really showing at every opportunity just how much you love being a dad. That dad feeling is infectious and though it may not seem it at the time, it’ll register with people.
  • Make allies – who else wants to change things for dads? This may be other dads, but it may even be non-parents. Whoever they are, find them, and make them your allies.
  • Don’t let the little things go – this would be the opposite of what I say to dads at home(!), but at work, we need to start to challenge those little moments in the day where employers think of dads as a secondary parent. The tea break moment, the discussions with other mums about schooling or birthdays, these are all opportunities for showing why you are part of the gender equality debate too.

Dads now have an opportunity to really create a more equal agenda in the workplace.  There has never been a better time to negotiate flexible or remote working as there is now – post-lockdown. 

I hope that this might be the catalyst that will bring about a real change in mindset, not only for employers but for families and society as a whole. 

Han-Son Lee is the founder of Daddilife.

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