Gender, and the need for equal opportunity, touches every corner of our lives, and there are things that we as men can be doing to create change in small ways, no matter where we are.
1. Push back against the likability penalty
Women are expected to be kind, nurturing, and compassionate, so when they assert themselves, they go against our expectations and are often liked less. This can have a big impact on their careers. Ask yourself: Who are you more likely to support and promote, the man with high marks across the board or the woman with equally high marks but who is not as well liked? Push back against this likeability penalty. When you hear a female coworker called “aggressive” or “out for herself,” ask the person, “Would you have the same reaction if a man did the same thing?” In many cases, the answer will be no.
2. Do your share of “office housework”
Women end up doing more than their fair share of office housework such as taking notes, organizing events, and training new hires. These tasks steal valuable time away from core responsibilities that get employees noticed—the person taking diligent notes almost never makes the killer point in a meeting. Do your part to help distribute office housework equally, including picking up some yourself. You’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with different coworkers and develop new skills, and research shows that teams are more effective when members help one another. Finally, don’t fall into the trap of expecting women to take on stereotypical female roles like “team mom” or party planner.
3. Be a 50/50 partner
The days of June Cleaver and Carol Brady may be long gone, but women still do the majority of domestic work. More women than ever are primary or co-breadwinners, yet only 9 percent of couples in dual-income marriages share child care, housework, and breadwinning evenly. This means that most women work a full day only to come home to a second job. Make sure household work is split evenly, and don’t wait to be asked—step up when you see dishes in the sink or laundry piling up. Doing your fair share pays off. Fathers who help with household chores are more likely to raise daughters who believe they have a broader range of job opportunities. And did I mention couples who share household duties have more sex? Laundry is “choreplay”!
4. Be an active father
There’s simply no substitute for hands-on fathering. Children with involved fathers have higher self-esteem, better cognitive and social skills, fewer behavioral problems, and higher academic achievement. This is true at every income level and regardless of how involved mothers are. Be an active and involved dad. Help with homework, read books together, talk about your kids’ daily experiences and dreams. You don’t have to be perfect—you just have to be engaged. Not only will your kids benefit, you will, too. Fatherhood is linked to lower blood pressure, lower rates of cardiovascular disease, and a longer life.
5. Make work work for parents
This one’s for you, managers! In order for men to do their part at home, they need support at work. Companies should have family-friendly policies such as flextime and maternity/paternity leave, and fathers should not be penalized when they choose to spend time with their families. Sadly, they often are. Studies show that men receive lower performance ratings and experience steeper reductions in future earnings than women after taking time away from work for family reasons. Men—and, of course, women—should feel encouraged as professionals and parents.
Finally, women need to encourage and celebrate our husbands when they lean in at home. It took longer than I’d like to admit for me to realize that women don’t have a magic gene that makes us better parents and that there isn’t a right or wrong way to clean the kitchen. Scott has a different style as a parent and is not bothered by a little clutter, but he brings his own unique talents to our household. Because of him, we never miss a birthday party or run out of milk.
This isn’t easy stuff, but if we all support women as leaders and men as caregivers, we’ll get closer to a world where our kids are comfortable doing anything—from sitting at the kitchen table to sitting at the head of the table.
Men, show the world how you’re leaning in for equality. And women, celebrate men leaning in. Pass it on with #LeanInTogether.