What do fathers want?

That’s question being asked by the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust – and it’s sign of changing times.
Research shows that today’s fathers want to spend more time with their kids than their fathers spent with them. Most now have dual commitment to work and family, says EEO Trust executive director Trudie McNaughton – and that needs to be catered for in work practice.
“To some extent, the assumption has been that [recent workforce] changes will work for all parents. And initially, the pressure for change did come solely from women.
“However, as the long-term consequences of these changes sink in, men are realising they also need flexibility to be the kind of fathers they now wish to be. And women recognise that equality at work is more likely when men share caring responsibilities.”
However, there are some barriers. Those identified by research include the long hours that tend to go with high-status management jobs and the demands of overtime and shift work in lower-paid jobs. There’s also the worry that men who put more emphasis on family importance may be penalised in terms of work advancement – something that’s shown up in several international studies.
That “blame the culture” attitude can become self-fulfilling cycle, warns McNaughton.
“Fathers consider the culture and assume, at best, it is supportive of working mothers. Companies look at the lack of men participating in work-life programmes as evidence this is woman’s issue.”
She says it’s clear workplaces need to be very specific that family-friendly culture applies to men as well as women. This ranges from care in the use of language to customising policies to take into account men’s ways of being with children (often more events-based).
To help promote this approach, the EEO Trust has devised short “snapshot” questionnaire for fathers as well as resources for workplaces to help fathers balance their dual roles.
These were launched at the EEO Trust Work & Life Awards on September 4.

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