Workplace equality requires we stop thinking dads’ duties are temporary but moms’ are forever
News | 08.12.2018
Julianna Goldman recently wrote a piece for the Atlantic in which she explained that she quit her job as a TV journalist because it was impossible to balance with being a mom. I can relate: I too quit a high-octane news job in part because I needed more “balance.”
For Goldman, it was a bittersweet decision. She loved the job, and giving it up felt like also giving up the years it took to get there. She also felt the sting of looking around and seeing a stream of fathers who seem to face no such choice in their careers. Indeed, she cites research showing that at the so-called “big three” networks—ABC, CBS, and NBC—combined, men were responsible for reporting 75% of the evening news broadcasts over three months in 2016; the 25% share for women was down from 32% two years earlier.
It’s not hard to imagine why it would be hard to be a TV journalist and try to carve out the time that kids and families need. The news is 24/7, and stories happen everywhere, on no one’s schedule. “If you decline an assignment, you may be labeled a problem or deemed not to be a team player,” she writes. “Managers judge correspondents partly based on how often they’re on air.”
We all know that women take a hit in their career for having a family, while men are often paid a premium for doing the same. We have been told to lean in, and simultaneously, that we can and cannot have it all. But really, all many of us want is the support to work, and know our children are safe and cared for in stimulating environments.
But here’s the point that got me: Goldman writes that when men asked for time off, they were often rewarded for being fathers. Mothers, not so much. “One reason may be an assumption that a man’s caretaking responsibilities will be temporary, while a mom will always ask for special accommodations,” she suggested. Kathleen Gerson, a sociologist at NYU who studies gender dynamics in the workplace, agreed: “It’s still considered so unusual for a man to be an equal or primary caretaker that there can be brownie points associated with that.”
That’s like salt in the wound. Parenting is a forever gig for both genders. Beyond exclusive breastfeeding, men can share the work and should (and there’s plenty of other work during that time too). Managers should see their demands not as temporary, but as human.
Consider this Pew data:
1965: Moms spend 10 hours a week on childcare
2011: Moms spend 14 hours a week on childcare
1970: 40% of children had stay-at-home moms
2012: 20% of children had stay-at-home moms
Dads are doing more too. But moms still do the brunt of the work. How much, you ask?
Many countries have figured this out. It’s time the US joined them.