How to Get More Women into Leadership? Give Men Time Off
There's plenty in the news about getting more women into leadership. But, in my work with companies, we've seen the reality that gender equity is not going to change until men are involved as well.
A key ingredient? Paternity leave. It seems like a small lever but it's essential:
- Men get a chance to develop their parenting skills because they are a full-time parent - not the "helper." Just like any other skill, practice builds confidence. Now, both parents can understand the joy (as well as the drudgery) of parenting. It even helps kids learn.
- Dual-income parents can reframe the assumption that "mom is in charge of the family." This enables both parents to share the responsibility for career and family.
- It sends a message that parenting leave is just part of doing business rather than a pricey, special benefit for women. Now men and women in their late 20s and 30s can be viewed as equally likely to be taking time off. My hypothesis is that longer term, this will help decrease the motherhood penalty.
- Companies benefit by increased engagement, retention and better use of all their talent (since mothers will be less likely to scale back as much since fathers now have similar responsibilities).
In the second conversation, a labor lawyer told me that she's getting more business from Millennial men who are getting "punished" for taking paternity leave. They are suing.
What can be done? If you are a new or almost new dad, ask for paternity leave. Advocate for a paternity leave policy with other men and then USE IT ALL. Once enough men take leave, it will become the new "normal" and individuals will no longer be "dinged" for using it.
If you are a leader at your organization, look at paternity leave as a strategic advantage that attracts millennials, builds loyalty, significantly reduces gender bias, and evens the playing field.
It doesn't take much. 6 weeks, maybe 12 is all it requires. My old company used to give employees of a certain tenure a 3-month sabbatical. Universities do it all the time. It rejuvenates. It builds loyalty. And creates a brand identity that attracts the best talent. All it takes is a policy change.
Pretty simple actually.