The measures taken in recent years to achieve gender equality have been mainly focused on women and for good reason! But the balance of equality also depends on the participation of men. Parity in business implies a collective awareness. How can employers support men who want to help women and contribute to the gender equality movement so critical to society?

Changing the “working man” paradigm

Women are unquestionably burdened with societal pressures beyond those of so many of their male counterparts. But this does not mean that men are exempt! Often consigned to the archaic role of being the household provider, men who take time to be stay-at-home dads and take time away for their family can be perceived negatively which can have detrimental consequences for their careers. Notwithstanding that,  the taunts received when going home to their family instead of joining coworkers for a drink after work can also be a difficult environment for many men to operate in.

Is it a matter of corporate culture or individual behaviour? Both. A leader who leads by example and takes full parental leave makes their employees think about it. A social secretary who organises work gatherings during the working day to allow employees who are parents to join them initiates a collective attention. A team leader who no longer responds to messages after office hours shows their peers that there is no point sending late messages, and therefore working late, because they will get a response the next day.

Promoting paternity leave

The past few years have seen a significant rise internationally in paternity leave. This is a big step in the right direction, encouraging men to focus on their families, but also to relieve their partner of some of the pressures brought on by a new child.

We clearly have a long way to go, though. Take Fijian International Rugby player, Timoci Nagusa, for example. He was publicly and professionally criticised for having taken all of his paternity leave. “I made this decision without hesitation, knowing that the job, the rugby, the fans, will disappear, but only family will remain forever,” he explained on Twitter before adding: “If I have anything to say to convince you to take paternity leave, it’s not just for you, but to help your partner.” His detractors accused him of undermining his team with his prolonged absence mid-season, a reproach which easily translates into other professional scenarios.

On the one hand, it should be acceptable and offered for men to take time for their family, whether to help their partner or take care of their children. On the other hand, an employee should not have to justify taking any leave to which they are entitled. This is also the case with taking leave for a sick child, yet too many men are surrounded by the view that it is the role of the mother to take time off from work in the event of a family emergency and not the father.

Parental leave remains victim to stereotypes

Similarly, parental leave was put in place to allow both parents to alternate their presence with the children; however, it is still perceived as a right, especially for employees. According to a study by the French Observatory of Economic Conditions on the subject, only 1% of employed fathers request parental leave. The authors of the study suggest increasing compensation and conducting public announcement campaigns on the subject to help convince more men to take their leave.

Some companies in competitive sectors go so far as to highlight these benefits. This is the case with Volvo, who since April 2021 has offered 6 months of gender-neutral parental leave, paid at 80% of salary. The system remains flexible and employees can take this leave according to their preferences during the three years following the birth of the child. The condition? You need to have been with the company for at least one year. Here is a way to combine parity and quality of work life in an attractive way, especially for companies that recruit in competitive sectors.

Commit to working parents in your company

The Corporate Parenthood Charter has existed in France since 2008 and involves over 700 companies. The principles of this charter can be applied to nations across the world. Proper management of parenthood in companies means allowing employees, men and women, to make themselves available to their families, while limiting the harmful effects on their careers. 

To do this, companies must:

  • Educate on and encourage employed parents to take their parental leave
  • Avoid meetings that are too early or late
  • Provide flexible working hours to help employees deal with family issues
  • Make managers aware of the needs and concerns of employed parents
  • Maintain a flexible teleworking policy
  • Make these programs equally accessible to men and women


A need to reflect in order to support parity in the workplace

Anyone who has tried to maintain a perfect work-life balance will attest to the fact that it is a life’s work. Actions to support gender equality in companies deserve recurring attention. In a compelling article by researchers Iona Lupa and Mayra Ruiz-Castro for Harvard Business Review, the authors describe work-life balance as a cyclical process that both employee and employer can take part in. This process includes five skills for employee’s to develop:

  • Distancing: the ability to take an objective look at your daily work allows you to identify the sources of stress and dissatisfaction.
  • Emotional intelligence: this sought-after soft skill involves knowing how to listen to one’s emotions to better understand the effect of a situation on their mental health, for example a difficult work environment. Identifying the emotions we experience, whether positive or negative, allows us to better identify our needs and the things that are important to us, and then rationalise them.
  • Prioritising: everything isn’t always rosy, and it’s important to allocate time and energy for the activities and projects that motivate us. This ability, intimately linked to our time management, has a strong impact on the quality of our daily lives, at work and in personal life.
  • Critical thinking: thanks to this, it’s easier to assess the feasibility of changes we desire to rebalance our professional and personal lives.
  • Communicating needs: once changes have been recorded and validated, employees can choose to discuss with their manager and peers. For example, if they decide to no longer respond to requests after 5 p.m. every Tuesday and Thursday, then this can be the subject of an email or an automatic notification on those days. Clear communication around our limits is an integral part of good practices contributing to work-life balance.


Maybe balance lies in redefining “professionalism” and setting boundaries to protect our time, whether it’s spent on family life, other projects we are passionate about, or supporting the careers of the women around us.