Illustration: Ashley Siebels
Men can do the same things women can do: recognize that we’re all actually capable both at work and at home, and act accordingly.
This is thethat we need in order to advance the cause of gender equity in the workplace. It’s not just about men supporting women as equals in the workplace. It’s also about women supporting men as equals in caregiving.
Today’s workers, particularly young parents, want real equality in both places. That’s what theshow. But some men and women in power are still holding onto Mad Men-era notions about gender roles. They’re acting as gender police in the workplace.
Here’s an example from my book,. Jay got a call at work, saying that there was an emergency. His wife was 38 weeks pregnant, the placenta stopped working, and the baby wasn’t moving. They had to induce right away. He, of course, left work. Everything worked out fine with the baby, fortunately. Jay missed just the rest of that week, so a total of a few days. When he came back to work on Monday, his boss called him and rebuked him for having taken off those days. That boss was a pregnant woman.
There’s also the case of a state trooper in Maryland whose boss refused him the time he was legally allowed to take off after the birth of his child. She told him women are supposed to care for babies unless they’re “in a coma or dead.” (You can see this and a lot more in the intro, free.)
Men often get fired, demoted, or lose job opportunities when they take paternity leave, seek flexible schedules, or even openly acknowledge that they prioritize their families over their jobs. Families can’t afford to risk losing these incomes. So men end up being pushed to work more hours, while women get pushed to stay home. And the vicious cycle continues.
These stigmas and the other backward, sexist structures supporting them are what my Time Warner was about when I worked at CNN.against
We all need to break this cycle, together. Not only do we need to support the opposite gender, but women need to support women and men need to support men. It’s about all of us supporting each other.
I now work with businesses everywhere to make that happen. I tell them it’s usually about 20% policy and 80% culture.
Start off by investigating your policies. Do they treat men and women, officially, as equal caregivers? One thing to check, for example, is whether leave specifically for caregiving is the same for men and women.
After my case, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sent out guidance making clear that caregiving leave has to be clearly distinguished from physical recovery leave. Women obviously need and should have physical recovery leave after giving birth, but caregiving leave must be separate and gender neutral.
Then, look at these kinds of policies in practice. How many men are actually taking leave available for caregiving? How many could have taken it but didn’t? That’s a huge sign of culture. Despite stereotypes, today’s dads want to be very involved at home. Only a tiny percentage actually value time at work over time at home.
Create cultural awareness programs at work about all this. When you have conversations about work-life balance, include the men around you. Make clear to them that it’s safe for them to participate.
And to eradicate backward stereotypes, learn the truth about today’s dads. Some media have done a terrible job ignoring the facts. That’s why I launched a media education campaign.
We also need a nationalprogram, which is supported by the vast majority of Americans — including Democrats, Republicans, and Independents.
Ultimately, it’s about bringing women and men together, on one team, to take all of the steps needed to build real gender equity. It’s time to stop talking only about how men can help women. We all can help each other. When we do, we’ll create a truly All In workplace.
Josh Levs is a journalist, expert on issues facing modern families and author of All In: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses–And How We Can Fix It Together.
This column first appeared at Quora.com