Washington, D.C. — Despite the complex makeup of today’s workforce, conversations around work-life balance issues primarily focus on the challenges women experience, often failing to bring men’s work-life challenges into the fold. Today, the Center for American Progress released a new analysis examining how gender neutral work-life policies such as workplace flexibility, paid leave, and paid sick days can create more equitable and better-balanced work-life experiences for all American workers.
WATCH: Today at 12:00 p.m. ET, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest will join experts for a discussion on work-family balance issues for men and fathers.
Although considerable research has focused on the imbalances of and barriers to adequate work-life balance for women and mothers, far less research exists that focuses on the ways in which gendered notions of the so-called ideal-worker and an out-of-date workplace clash with men’s work-life fit. However, the rise in work-family conflict reported by men underscores the need to adopt policies that help both men and women balance work and caregiving responsibilities. At the same time, adopting gender neutral work-family policies can help break down gendered notions and stigmas of men and women’s role in the workplace and at home.
As outlined in CAP’s new brief, policies that address work-family balance issues and provide labor protections—such as paid family leave, paid sick days, and flexible work arrangements—have the potential to recalibrate expectations and norms around caretaking and breadwinning.
“Men want to be more involved in their families and want to support their partners in their career pursuits, but today’s workplace policies and social barriers continue to constrain their opportunities for greater involvement,” said Sarah Jane Glynn, Director for Women’s Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress. “Providing men and fathers access to policies that allow them to care for a sick loved one or bond with a newborn child can create a healthier, more productive workforce that equally values all workers’ caregiving responsibilities.”
CAP’s analysis examines several work-life balance issues and social stigmas men encounter and outlines ways to combat men’s work-family conflict:
Flexible work arrangements and tackling the flexibility stigma: Workers—both men and women—often lack access to predictable, flexible work arrangements. However, because men are more likely to hold professional and managerial jobs than women, and because these jobs are the most likely to have some degree of flexibility, men have more access to flexible work arrangements than women. Despite this access, men often do not make use of available flexibile work arrangements for fear of negative ramifications in the form of workplace penalties. Right-to-request laws would allow workers to request some type of workplace flexibility while protecting them from discrimination and retaliation in the workplace. Furthermore, federal legislation, such as the proposed Schedules That Work Act, has the potential to mitigate work-life imbalances and hardships that arise from rigid and unpredictable scheduling practices.
Paid family leave and paid sick days: The issue of paid family leave is often discussed in connection with new mothers having to return to work quickly after the birth of a child. However, expanding the paid family leave conversation to include men could promote more equitable caregiving arrangements and mitigate the financial ramifications of working fewer hours to care for loved ones. Paid, nontransferable paternity leave, as well as increased access to caregiving leave and paid sick days for all workers, could create better work-life balance for families.
Pay inequality: Persistent workplace ideologies that discourage men from pursuing available options for balancing work-family life force caregiving responsibilities to fall disproportionately on women, reinforcing out-of-date social and caregiving norms and, along with other factors, perpetuating the gender wage gap.
Read the brief: Men, Fathers, and Work-Family Balance by Erin Rehel and Emily Baxter
For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at email@example.com or 202.478.5328.