The Impact of Female Dominated Workplace Policies on Men, Women, and Children // Aimee M. Poleski



            Stay-at-home mothers often boast their job is all work and no play, while working mothers tend to claim they do more work than their unemployed counterparts.  Yet regardless of the mother’s role within a family, it is generally acceptable for the father to dedicate more hours than not to his role as a financial provider. Working fathers are at a distinct disadvantage because they do not experience the same flexibility, perks, and accommodations as working mothers.  The tendency for family policies to more often benefit women contributes to a disparity between the amount of time men and women devote to childcare responsibilities.  Such trends perpetuate the norm that women are responsible for the brunt of caretaking responsibilities, crystalize the tendency for men to occupy traditional gender roles, and effect quality of life for the family overall.
            In the1960s only 1% of fathers were actively involved in childcare responsibilities.  Since then men have become significantly more active in fatherhood roles (Haas & Hwang, 2008).  They continue to place a strong degree of importance on occupying the role of a provider, but have been found to gain more satisfaction from family roles over career (Burnett, Gatrell, Cooper, & Sparrow, 2013). An emphasis on family values, in conjunction with women’s primary role no longer being limited to childrearing and homemaking, has led men to be increasingly acknowledged in their roles as fathers (McLaughlin & Muldoon, 2014).  Despite this, men are simply not granted the same opportunities as women when it comes to workplace family policies.
            In some cases, women experience the benefits of policies geared toward family that include flex-time, maternity leave, or the ability to work from home, making work-life balance more achievable.  Yet as the workforce became more sensitive to the needs of working mothers it largely ignored those of working fathers (Burnett, Gatrell, Cooper, & Sparrow, 2013).  While women continue to experience gender inequality within the workforce, men rarely benefit from workplace family policies.  This disparity contributes to women remaining the primary caretaker and most often the partner to forego a career.  Of equal importance is the implicit acceptance that men dedicate more time to work than family (Levey, 2013), with over a third of working men spending over forty hours a week on the job (McLaughlin & Muldoon, 2014). Not only can women become burnt out on dedicating most of their waking hours to the home, but men’s quality of life and relationships within the family can diminish as well.
            Working fathers may be aware of family policies and feel they could benefit from them, but there is a passive assumption that the policies are in place for women.  Additionally, men’s need for work-life balance can be largely ignored.  This is reflected in employers implicitly discouraging men from taking advantage of family policies or reacting differently to male requests for similar accommodations as working mothers (McLaughlin & Muldoon, 2014). Not only may a man’s request be met with disapproval, he may even be perceived as engaging in excuse-making or dishonesty. When not requesting flexibility or accommodations, men are simply not offered the same benefits as women. Ultimately, both employees and employers to fail to even explore the possibility of men taking advantage of family policies.  This intensifies the existing belief that family policies are in place for women, further discouraging men from seeking out the same benefits.
            The blatant disregard of accommodating the needs of working fathers impacts the entire family.  When fathers work long hours it effects relationships with children.  Mothers develop stronger bonds with children not only as the child bearer, but as the parent who simply ends up spending more time with the child (Haas & Hwang, 2008).  Men experience incessant pressure to take on as much work as possible to maintain financial stability, which not only causes the father to dedicate less time to his fatherhood role, but can influence the quality of the relationship with his partner. Furthermore, high demands on either partner can cause mental, emotional, or physical strain. In many cases, the man a father wants to be is simply not reflected in his lifestyle.
            Fathers who take advantage of family policies, such as paternity leave, may experience many benefits, which in turn creates positive effects for women and children.  Men who dedicate more time to childcare display greater satisfaction within the fatherhood role, and greater father participation in caretaking can improve the quality of interactions with children and ultimately improve the father-child relationship (Haas & Hwang, 2008).  These benefits ultimately increase quality of life for both parent and child.  Women also benefit by being relieved of caretaking responsibilities, which allows them to explore other opportunities. The benefits of men taking advantage of family policies has been observed in workplaces that either require men to take advantage of family policies or foster a culture in which there is a greater awareness that the policies exist for men. Various methods of generating greater father participation in workplace policies geared toward the family may increase the number of men who take advantage of such policies.  One suggestion is for employers to utilize a fatherhood or motherhood passport that would detail the parental status of employees (Burnett, Gatrell, Cooper, & Sparrow, 2013). Identifying parent status would serve as a method of promoting an awareness that male employees occupy fatherhood roles. This would in turn normalize the perception of employees as fathers.  Normalizing fatherhood within the workplace may eventually reduce resistance to requests for taking advantage of family policies. As a result, men and children will experience stronger relationships and women may experience more flexibility if they prefer it.  As men become more able to achieve work-life balance the quality of life for fathers, mothers, and children may be expected to improve.

Written by: Aimee M. Poleski

References

Burnett, S. B., Gatrell, C. J., Cooper, C., & Sparrow, P. (2013). Fathers at work: A ghost   in the             organizational machine. Gender, Work & Organization, 20(6), 632-646.
Haas, L., & Hwang, C. P. (2008). The impact of taking parental leave on fathers’ participation in childcare and relationships with children: Lessons from Sweden.    Community, Work and Family, 11(1), 85-104.
McLaughlin, K., & Muldoon, O. (2014). Father identity, involvement and work–family      balance: An indepth interview study. Journal of Community & Applied Social           Psychology, 24(5), 439-452.


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