Gender equality and men

Men have much lower rates of access and utilisation of flexible working arrangements and parental leave entitlements. According to 2019-20 WGEA data, men make up 6.5% of people who take primary carer parental leave and only 2.2% of organisations have set targets to improve men's participation in flexible work.

Workplace flexibility and parental leave are major features of Australian workplaces. However, men's access to and uptake of these entitlements remains low. To contend with this, organisations are moving towards gender-neutral policies, offering gender equitable leave and working arrangements for all employees. Organisations that provide strong, gender-neutral parental leave and flexible working policies are more likely to enjoy better recruitment and retention, as these policies send a message that the organisation supports gender equity and that their employees are valued. 

There is a strong business case for men working flexibly and taking parental leave. Access to and uptake of these entitlements can lead to a boost in productivity, an increase in employee wellbeing and improvements to work-life balance. Designing gender-neutral parental leave policies and supporting fathers and partners to take this leave has extensive benefits for families, organisations and society. Equally, providing men with access to flexible working arrangements and encouraging its uptake is integral to progressing gender equality in the workplace. Organisations must support and encourage men to take parental leave and flexible work arrangements. An increase in utilisation of these entitlements will benefit families, organisations and make an overall impact on workplace gender equality.

This image depicts a man who is stressed about his work-life balance

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Parental leave continues to be a major feature of Australian workplaces and can provide employers with a competitive edge in the labour market when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. However, men’s access to and uptake of this entitlement remains low. So, why aren’t more men taking parental leave?

When we talk about men and women balancing work and caring, it can be all too easy to frame the discussion in adversarial absolutes. For instance, when we discuss the gender pay gap and inequality in the workplace and at home, some might take the easy option of saying it is mainly due to men focusing on their careers and not “pulling their weight” at home.

More men are finding themselves caught in the crosshairs between two diverging expectations: traditional breadwinner and modern father.