Fatherhood in America has changed and is continuing to change. Those changes have brought both new opportunities and new challenges.
Despite their desire to be engaged, 70% of new dads take off 10 days or less to be with their families. This is not always by choice. JPMorgan Chase made headlines this year for a record setting $5M parental leave discrimination case. In this case, new father Derek Rotondo applied unsuccessfully to use the paid leave benefit offered by the bank. The case highlighted an inconsistency found at many companies: one policy on paper and another in practice.
While the vast majority of companies do not provide paid leave, at many companies that do have it, employees are not taking it. Workplace culture has a massive impact on whether parents, especially fathers, feel they can actually take the leave their company provides: men are much less likely than women to take leave if it’s not paid, and when it is paid, they take shorter leaves.
When new dads don’t take leave, it not only impacts their ability to be engaged fathers, it impacts the health of their partner. New data tells us that the amount of time dads spend at home immediately following childbirth has a direct impact on maternal health and wellbeing. And the benefits don’t stop there. We also know that a woman earns more when her partner takes his paternity leave and that dads who spend more time at home in the early days prove to be more engaged caregivers as their children grow.
So if dads want to be more involved, and when dads do take leave we see massive benefits for the entire family, why aren’t more dads taking leave? While there is a financial factor, more than anything, it comes down to culture and societal norms. These are deep seated norms. They’re not easy to change.
Though change is indeed coming. With each new company that offers leave, each new father who actually takes their leave, and every conversation we have about the topic, we take a step forward. In this case, awareness is one of the single biggest drivers of change.