Gender equality has been a hot topic in business over the past few years as we have started to see more and more businesses implement strategies to address the issue. While the focus is predominantly on change required for women in the workplace, a topic that has taken my interest lately, is the change that is required for men as well.
My sister has recently had her first child and has faced many shocked reactions when telling people that she will be returning to work and her husband will taking on the stay-at-home parent duties. The fact that they are able to do this shows the strides that have been made toward gender equality; however, people's reactions show that gender stereotypes are still very much entrenched in our society.
Although paternity leave is becoming increasingly available to fathers at work, few men actually use it and many that do, including my brother-in-law, face judgement. There are only 3 per cent of Australian families with children under 15, where the mother works full-time and the father works part-time or not at all, compared to 60 per cent of the reverse.
We are starting to see a move toward addressing this issue. I was amazed to find that in Sweden, for example, parents of whichever gender are entitled to maternity/paternity leave for a total of 480 days while receiving 80 per cent of their salary. In addition, 60 of these must be taken by the father or all else are lost and families can receive an 'equality bonus' the more days are divided equally between the parents.
While this change isn't going to happen overnight, it's encouraging to know that it is being recognised. To pave the way for more women in business it's important that society begins to shift its attitude towards gender roles of both women and men. As it becomes more acceptable for men to utilise the same flexible work hours that women do, men and women will begin to be viewed more equally in the workplace.