The hand that rocks the cradle
In 1966, James Brown sang ‘This is a man’s world’ and most women agreed with him. More than 50 years later, you could be forgiven for holding the same view. Centre for Policy Studies research has found that women aged between 60 and 65 on average have a pension that is half the size of men their age, while the TUC warned the UK was still “decades away” from equal pay for men and women.
However, there are worrying facts for men and boys too. Higher Education Policy Institute research last year found that a boy born in 2016 will be 75% less likely to attend University than his sister if present trends continue. And a recent survey of working dads carried out on behalf of Nationwide Building Society found that 95% of men feel some sort of stress juggling their work and family life and 68% say they would give up their day job to be a stay at home dad.
Nationwide Building Society is taking action to improve gender equality and their recent Gender Equality event, ‘50/50’, saw equal numbers of men and women in the audience and presenting.
Keynote speaker at “50:50”, Dan Godsall, believes that becoming a parent shouldn't mean the end of a promising career. He founded Womba and delivers programmes for employers and employees on how to make returning to work after kids or a career break much easier.
Dan left his job to look after his baby son Jesse and was shocked when, for the first time in his life, he experienced discrimination. Provision of childcare is almost an exclusively female domain, 98% in the UK.
“ It was the beginnings of an understanding of what it is to be different, of having your opinions disregarded, of the bias being against you. ”
Dan’s premise is that children learn through experience and imitation, so need male role models in their early years to cut through the stereotypes of ‘man at work, woman at home’.
During lively and passionate debate, fathers revealed that they would like to work more flexible hours and take a larger share in caring for their children but had been warned off the idea for fear of appearing to not take their careers seriously.
Joe Garner, Nationwide’s CEO, said: “We are very proud that the vast majority of our female employees who take maternity leave return to work and many in a flexible capacity. And we've recently had one of our male senior executives take shared parental leave following the birth of his first child, and then return to work four days a week.
“ I am keen we are pushing the boundaries in this area, and I will actively try to help accommodate more flexible arrangements. Often, I find that there is no ‘policy’ in the way…people just need to ask! ”
It’s a widely held view that women will not achieve equality outside the home until men are equal in it. And as the poem goes, the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world, so equality at home and at work benefits all of us.