NEW RESEARCH FINDS THAT FATHERS CLEARLY
UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF SPENDING TIME WITH
THEIR KIDS—YET MANY FEEL RELUCTANT TO ASK FOR
MORE TIME TO DO THAT.
continued from cover
executive director of the Scottsdale,
Ariz.-based Worldat Work’s Alliance for
as he bonded with his daughter. No BlackBerry, no phone calls, no emails—well
OK, one or two emails.
“Those early days are magical in terms of spending time with the baby,” says
Berry, who also took a two-week leave when son Jack was born in April 2010. “[The
leave] gave me the opportunity not to have to think about work or anything else.”
Berry considers himself fortunate to work for IBM, a leader among large U.S.
companies in offering father-friendly benefits. The 400,000-employee, Armonk,
N. Y.-based firm received an award from the National Fatherhood Initiative and is
regularly included on Working Mother’s Best Companies list. Another dad-friendly
company is SAS, a 12,000-employee, Cary, N.C.-based software firm that has ranked
No. 1 for the past two years on Fortune’s 100 Best Places to Work list.
At companies such as IBM and SAS, offering father-friendly—and, more
broadly, work/life—benefits is viewed as a key recruitment and retention strategy.
And the attention paid to dads’ wants and needs couldn’t be occurring at a more
propitious time. Several studies indicate dads are increasingly engaged with their
families but experiencing more work/life conflict. A voluminous 2009 report from
the Families and Work Institute, Times are Changing: Gender and Generation at
Work and at Home, found that fathers in dual-earner couples feel significantly
greater work/life conflict than mothers and that this stress has risen steadily, as
more wives spend longer hours at work while fathers are increasingly—and indeed,
want to be—more involved in their children’s lives.
Yet many organizations are apparently clueless or indifferent to fathers’
concerns. And one reason for that may be that many dads fear speaking up,
especially during a downbeat economy.
“Part of the problem is that fathers are our own worst enemies: We tend not to
demand [flexibility],” says Roland Warren, president of the National Fatherhood
Initiative, a Germantown, Md.-based nonprofit offering fatherhood resources and
services. “Also, men don’t organize the way women do around these issues. In
many cases, they are huddled masses yearning to be free.”
For organizations that ignore father-friendly and other work/life benefits,
Kathleen Lingle issues a warning.
“Our projection is that there are a lot of employees out there now with pent-up
frustration who will leave their organization the minute they can,” says Lingle,
Pigeonholed as Breadwinners
Sixty-six countries, not including
the United States, ensure fathers
either receive paid paternal leave or
have a right to it. A number of U.S.
organizations do offer PPL on their
own, however. A 2011 benefits survey
by the Society for Human Resource Management reveals that 16 percent provide
PPL, down from 17 percent in 2007.
As companies with worldwide operations, IBM and SAS are attuned to parental
benefits globally and in this country. The companies’ two-week PPL is among
the most generous in the United States. At SAS, about 150 dads annually take
advantage of the policy.
Many IBM dads also make use of its PPL, although the company did not have
specific numbers available at press time. Their participation can be partially
attributed to the fact that the company’s HR professionals and line managers are
trained to communicate the leave and other work/life benefits, says Ron Glover,
IBM’s vice president for diversity and workforce policy and a father of three. It also
helps that senior leaders, some of whom are fathers themselves, occasionally use
the leave, he says.
This is vitally important, says Lingle. “Managers and leaders need to
demonstrate action, not lip service, that they themselves use these policies and
consider them to be culturally embedded—the natural way work is done, for the
good of the enterprise and all of its stakeholders,” she says.
Although the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees eligible employees 12
weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave during any 12-month period to care for a child,
many fathers don’t take advantage of it. In fact, only one in 20 took as much as two
weeks paid or unpaid leave after their most recent child was born, according to
The New Dad: Caring, Committed and Conflicted, a 2011 study of 1,000 professional
fathers by the Boston College Center for Work and Family.
It isn’t that fathers don’t want to bond with their newborns. Asked by the
Center’s researchers what their employers could do to support them as fathers,