There’s plenty out there about women having to lean in, but we rarely talk about how men can also play their part by shuffling that fixed deck of cards.
I don’t for a moment pretend to have all the answers. But I do have a few suggestions.
Ask for flexible working arrangements
Mums aren’t the only people who benefit from flexible working arrangements. Speaking from personal experience, my husband felt a big stress reduction when he worked a four day week for a while. My previous boss is a Crossfit addict who finishes at 4pm every day to train. Let’s make flexible working normal for men and women alike. Ask for it for yourself, and you’ll be nudging the workplace to be better for everyone.
Level the playing field with teamwork
Women tend to be less confident when it comes to applying for new jobs and negotiating on salary. So push your partner to apply for that stretch role and encourage her to decide what a job is worth and add 20% when starting salary negotiations. It’s part of being a strong team.
Check your prejudice
I have noticed my own unconscious bias popping up at times when I’ve seen mums struggling to juggle work and parenting, and even when I met a stay-at-home dad and felt an uncomfortable urge to say ‘well done’. Challenge your own beliefs if you find yourself thinking that people taking time away from work, flexible and part-time workers are less committed or ambitious.
Take parental leave
Men get an unfair deal when they become a dad, expected to head back to the office days after their life-changing miracle arrives. That’s not cool. If you’re in New Zealand, tweet and talk about the government shifting the language they use from ‘primary carer’s (paid) leave and partner’s (unpaid) leave’ to ‘shared parental leave’. Let’s make sure that the language we use normalises dads looking after their kids too. I’m covering ‘parental leave’ in my role, not ‘maternity leave’, for example. Legislation aside: guys, take that time off work if you can afford it when baby comes along. You’ll never get that precious time again.
Be a coach
As you ascend the career ladder, consider who you could help along the way. Typically women aren’t offered sponsors or mentors as frequently as men, with ethnic minority women especially hard hit. How can you help redress this imbalance? Simple. Offer to coach someone you wouldn’t automatically consider reaching out to.
Get ready for retirement
Okay, maybe it’s wishful thinking that us millennials will ever get to retire. But just in case we do, be sure to have a grown-up conversation with your partner about pensions now, before you have kids. Chances are that if the mum’s the one taking time out to care for children, her retirement fund will take a hit. How, as a couple, will you ensure financial fairness in your old age?