Workplace equity and equality isn’t often something that is associated with becoming a father. Fatherhood, for me, has been a tremendous gift – one which I feel entirely undeserving of and yet immensely grateful for at the same time. It has tested me in ways I could have never expected and brought fulfillment to my life beyond what I ever imagined. And yet, just four years into my own journey as a parent, I recognize that my responsibilities as a father extend far beyond the four walls of our home.
As fathers and as men, we have a major role to play in supporting equity and equality in the workplace, and if you ask me, that work also begins at home. In our six-year marriage, my wife and I have always operated under the assumption that we are equal partners that can, at times, work toward different – but equally important – goals, and that each of us deserves a seat at our shared family table and a voice that will be heard with a mutual respect.
For years, I witnessed my wife’s ambition and drive in the legal world and watched as she poured that same passion and tenderness into caring for our two children. As her husband and our children’s father, I soon realized one of the most important lessons I could teach our children in those moments was to honor and acknowledge her leadership at work and respect and recognize our shared leadership in our home.
So when she began sharing some of the challenges she was facing as a working mother such as being held back from promotions and projects soon after having children, as well as trying to pump at the office given her long hours and travel schedule, we realized that stories like ours were just a small snapshot into the immense need for diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace in this country. There was no question that something needed to be done, and that we all have a responsibility to our children to help ensure they never experience the pain of inequality.
As we continue our work to help support work environments committed to inclusive leadership and equitable pay and leave for all employees, and as I reflect on my experiences as a father and working parent, it has become even clearer to me that one of the areas our nation continues to fall behind in is supporting working parents after they welcome a new child.
Today, we remain the only industrialized country who does not require paid family leave, causing nearly half of mothers in the U.S. to take less than two months of maternity leave and approximately a quarter of them to return to work just two weeks after giving birth due to the financial hardship it would cost them. Not surprisingly, the numbers are even worse for new fathers. According to the Boston College's Center for Work and Family, more than 80% of fathers reported taking just two weeks off after the birth of their child.
Studies continue to show that fathers who take more than two weeks off after the arrival of their child are more involved in that child's care as they grow, which often leads to improved developmental outcomes. At the same time, companies who support employees through paid parental leave are better able to retain qualified workers with valuable institutional knowledge rather than going through the costly and often burdensome process of hiring and training a new and inexperienced employee. As a country, we must take a stand in supporting the emotional and financial stability of workers during one of the most pivotal moments in their lives.
We've heard Frederick Douglas quoted many times before, and I believe he was absolutely right when he said,
"It's easier to build strong children than to repair broken men [and women]."
To do that, we must work together to ensure that mothers and fathers have the support they need at home and at work to ensure an enriching and prosperous future for generations to come.
This Father's Day, I pledge to continue to fight for equity and equality for my daughter and my son – and I call on all fathers to join me.
Contributed by Bennie King
Co-Founder and CAO, Kanarys
Bennie King is CAO and Co-founder of Kanarys, Inc., which helps companies foster diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace through the use of data and analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
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