• Written by Ivona Hideg, Associate Professor and Ann Brown Chair in Organization Studies, York University, Canada
3 ways companies could offer more father-friendly policies that will help women

If you want to help women achieve gender equality in the workplace, it’s time to give more support to men.

That may sound counterintuitive since men have long been advantaged at work with higher salaries[1], faster promotions[2] and more authority.

We are two professors who study gender equality and injustices in the workplace. One of us reviewed 186 published papers[3] on gender equality in the last decade. Our conclusion: One of the biggest problems in contemporary policies aimed at gender equality in the workplace is that they leave out men.

For many women with young children, taking on more responsibilities at work means their responsibilities at home need to decrease. And for that to happen, men need to step up – and be encouraged to do so. Here are three ways companies could do just that.

1. Men need family-friendly policies, too

Family-friendly policies such as flextime, telecommuting and a compressed workweek have been seen as supporting women’s traditional roles and hence as more needed for women[4] to take advantage of.

While most companies offer flextime policies[5] to both men and women, some studies show men’s usage has been stigmatized[6] and discouraged – and may even hurt their careers[7].

It may depend on why men take advantage of such policies. “High-status men” who sought flexible hours to advance their careers were most likely to get it[8] – as opposed to those who sought to take on more child-caring duties. Men who sought flextime for this reason also anticipated more backlash for such requests.

Companies could overcome these stereotypes and fears by encouraging men to take advantage of these types of family-friendly policies and by proclaiming that there’s no penalty if the reason is to take on more domestic responsibilities.

2. ‘Fathers-only’ leave

Parental leave is another common policy targeting mostly women. Most countries with nationally mandated parental leaves provide significantly more time to mothers[9] than fathers.

Even when parental leave is accessible to fathers, men are far less likely to use it[10] because of financial costs, gender expectations, a lack of organizational support and the fear it may hurt their careers[11].

Yet research shows[12] that men who take parental leave become equal partners in raising their children, beyond the time they take off before or after a baby is born.

Organizations that don’t offer paternal leave should, of course, do so. But even those that already provide it should do more to encourage men to take advantage of it. One way is by offering “fathers-only” paid leave in addition to whatever is given to mothers.

In many countries where parental leave is mandated, such as Canada and across Europe, leave can be shared between men and women any way parents like. Data show that mothers typically take the majority of that leave[13], while fathers take very little.

Canada is a good example. Across the country, only 15% of new dads take any leave[14] out of the available 35 weeks of shared parental leave. But in Quebec, which has been offering fathers-only leave since 2006, over 80% of new dads took[15] the five weeks reserved for fathers only. Given its success, in 2019 the rest of Canada added a similar policy[16] of reserving leave for fathers.

By setting aside a certain share for fathers only – without reducing the number of weeks available to new mothers – companies can signal that they want men to take parental leave too.

3. Cutting down on long hours

Another common practice that undermines gender equality[17] is long work hours.

Research shows that in nations that foster a culture that rewards overtime work, men do less housework and women do more. This undermines both men’s effort to engage in their roles outside of the office and women’s effort to engage in their careers.

[Over 100,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today[18].]

Not only that, studies have also found that long hours do not lead to more productivity[19] and, if anything, can be counterproductive and unsustainable.

The research clearly shows offering these policies isn’t enough. Employers need to encourage men to use them, without fear of repercussions, for the policies to be successful.


  1. ^ higher salaries (
  2. ^ faster promotions (
  3. ^ One of us reviewed 186 published papers (
  4. ^ as more needed for women (
  5. ^ most companies offer flextime policies (
  6. ^ some studies show men’s usage has been stigmatized (
  7. ^ may even hurt their careers (
  8. ^ were most likely to get it (
  9. ^ provide significantly more time to mothers (
  10. ^ men are far less likely to use it (
  11. ^ fear it may hurt their careers (
  12. ^ research shows (
  13. ^ mothers typically take the majority of that leave (
  14. ^ only 15% of new dads take any leave (
  15. ^ over 80% of new dads took (
  16. ^ added a similar policy (
  17. ^ undermines gender equality (
  18. ^ Sign up today (
  19. ^ long hours do not lead to more productivity (

Authors: Ivona Hideg, Associate Professor and Ann Brown Chair in Organization Studies, York University, Canada

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Metropolitan republishes selected articles from The Conversation USA with permission

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