Why employers need to talk about dads as well as mums
Here’s the thing – we will never get more women into the C-suite until we talk about dads. But before I explain, let me tell you why engaging dads in the workplace is very difficult for employers to get their collective heads round.
Firstly, HR teams are used to talking about the workplace, career paths and glass ceilings. If you want to embrace the dads among your employees then you will sooner rather than later end up in the world of domestic arrangements.
That can be uncomfortable territory. As one of the wittier HRDs we occasionally chat to put it: "Asking HR to look at what goes on in the bedroom rather than boardroom isn't easy."
Then there's the practical reality of most households (and please forgive me for generalising). This is the story of the typical modern, professional family: man and woman meet and fall in love. They share responsibilities and have similar career ambitions. Child number one arrives and before you can say "shared parental leave" the man is pulling out all his macho tricks, beating his chest about his lack of sleep and boasting about the three days he took off for the arrival of his son and heir. And the woman? Well while the man is busy turning into a macho stereotype she's busy becoming an opinionated uber controlling career mum.
In the Western world we are fixated on parenting and how complicated it is. In fact it's not that difficult. Men, left to their own devices can actually take to it pretty naturally.
But telling your working mums to be less controlling and your working dads to get off their macho high horses - well those aren't the easiest conversations.
And then finally the FD is likely to ask the obvious difficult question along the line. Convincing men to embrace their roles as dads is all very well and good. You will do wonders for the careers of the women - unfortunately the women you help will nearly always work in someone else's business rather than yours.
There will never be gender equality in the workplace until there is equality at home. Embracing men as talent as well as dads is therefore essential. That's exactly why some of the UK's most forward thinking employers such as Deloitte, P&G and Bank of America have started to talk about dads. And while embracing dads might be difficult, there is some good news.
Firstly, your employees who are dads are crying out for this stuff. Of course they want to be recognised as fathers. You don't have to do too much to make your working dads feel incredibly valued.
Secondly, sharing the parenting arrangements around a bit more is one of the golden threads of domestic bliss. Happy homes, happy employees and high engagement scores go hand in hand. On that level at least, giving your working dads a gentle embrace in a manly kind of way is an obvious next step for HR leaders to make.
Ben Black is co-founder of family benefits provider, My Family Care