I first wrote a post in 2012 querying why are children a corporate inconvenience? I have updated it at intervals ever since. In 2023, I am still asking the same question.
Why are children a corporate inconvenience?
Negative fallout is being reported for both men and women who take or wish to assume responsibility for parenting and childcare. My thoughts were further compounded after reading that women of child-bearing age are considered to be employment risks and in many geographies lack of adequate childcare facilities or the cost of childcare, is driving mainly women out of the labor market
Change of mindset
Given the global problem of declining populations, aging work forces and skill shortages it’s clear that a maind set shift is required. But for the future of global economies, it does strike me, that governments and businesses need to examine possibilities to create effective workforces, while allowing children to be raised in healthy environments, physically and emotionally.
Historically, this has been a role assigned to women. but it is only necessary for a very short period of time, for self-evident, biological reasons. As such a high percentage of educated and qualified personnel are now women, it seems crazy to sit back and allow their skills to be under utilised, when they leave the workforce or choose to work below their capabilities so that they can raise their families.
But today in changing times, what happens when men and women alike want (or need) both professional and child-care responsibilities? Instead many couples are delaying starting families or women are deciding not to have children because it is too hard and expensive,especially if they are well educated.
To me it seems nothing short of a confused mess.
In 1977 only 50% of married men were part of dual-career households, which has increased today to 75%. To achieve work life balance/integration, whatever you want to call it, women in the 21st century are being constantly urged to re-negotiate the responsibility for household tasks within their own relationships as they are doing most of the work at home. This situation was worsened by the pandemic and possobly accounts for the reason that Italy is ranked 63 in 2022 in the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Report. Italian women are doing most of the housework.
But for balance at home to become a reality, men have to then negotiate their own roles with their employers. An increasing number of men are now citing work/life balance as a major factor in career choice, an element which is strongly endorsed by Gen Y and now Gen Z starting out on their careers. Children have two parents even if they don’t live together.
Fatherhood has been perceived by potential employers as a guarantee of corporate drive and career commitment. On a longer term basis, a wish for workplace flexibility for family reasons is considered to be the “mummy track” to career suicide. Men are frequently advised not to pursue those options, even becoming “supernumerary” following such requests. Single parent fathers with custody obligations and sole responsibility for their children at specific times, are also on the increase, adding to the numbers for whom flexibility is a need, not a desire.
So if men want to achieve parity in the home like their women colleagues they risk falling behind in the workplace. Lack of domestic activity is a case of stereotypical macho slothfulness and a desire to watch the World Cup with a beer, or their partners being unwilling to relinquish domestic supremacy, although they can both play a part.
This is about outdated business models and corporate cultures which mitigate against all.
Michael Ray, Aussie Top Voice for Gender Equity is vocal about what he calls the Parental Value Gap and is seeing the “constant mischaracterisation of fathers as uninterested, unable, or the tired, outdated offensive media gender stereotype of the “buffoon”, “man child” or “lazy dad” tropes removed any imperative for workplace, organisational or societal initiatives to call out and address the problems?”
Women were told that they could have it all, and that was a lie. Men were told that there was only one role for them, and that was a travesty.
New approach to parenting
Sweden became the first country to replace maternity leave with parental leave. A study published by the Swedish Institute of Labor Market Policy Evaluation in March 2010 showed, , that a mother’s future earnings increases on average 7% for every month the father takes leave. It also indicates penalties and loss of benefits imposed for men who don’t take this leave. Parents may use their 390 days of paid leave however they want up to the child’s eighth birthday — monthly, weekly, daily and even hourly. There has apparently been a commensurate reduction in the divorce rate.
I can’t help but wonder if the very same “think tanks”, with their notable lack of women, when youth crime soars, will be the very same ones wringing their hands in horror asking “where are the parents?”
The fact is that despite all the economic and social factors which would suggest we urgently need flexibility of mindset, today companies still make children a corporte inconvenience.
What do you think?
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Note: updated in 2016, 2019, 2022 and 2023
It seems you can either have the time or the money! This fascinating study tracks the changes in working time for men and women – and education and skill base seem to be a factor with the less educated working less hours and making less money
We here more on line from managerial and educated women who are part of the ‘chattering classes’. Perhaps everyone else has gone down the pub?
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