Here at Werk, we've spilled a lot of digital ink trying to prove why women deserve structured flexibility and equal pay in the workplace, since they face many structural barriers in a corporate culture that is still largely patriarchal. But flexibility also benefits men—especially those who are caregivers—and our own research shows it.
Take PartTime work, for example. While PartTime flexibility had the least overall demand in our survey, millennial men had the highest interest in PartTime, with 63 percent demanding a reduced hours arrangement. As we speculated in our research paper, these men might be taking on, or be interested in taking on, more of the caregiving and housework burdens in their households now that family structures are evolving.
As we previously reported, women are becoming family breadwinners more than ever before—with 42 percent of mothers ranking as sole or primary breadwinners, according to the Center for American Progress. Meanwhile, women are earning Bachelor's degrees in higher proportions than men; and the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the workforce will be 48 percent female by 2050, up from 30 percent in 1950.
Thanks in large part to these societal shifts, men have started taking more active roles as parents. As the Pew Research Center reported in 2017, fathers reported an average of seven hours per week spent on child care—nearly three times the amount of time fathers spent on child care 50 years prior. And in Pew's survey, 57 percent of fathers said parenting is extremely important to their identity. (Also, more men are becoming stay-at-home fathers. In 2014, Pew reported the number fathers who do not work outside the home had nearly doubled since 1989—and these fathers accounted for 16 percent of stay-at-home parents, up from 10 percent in 1999.)
But without flexibility, fathers who stay in the workforce often find it hard to stay present in their children's lives. As Pew reported, 48 percent of fathers say they spend too little time with their kids, compared to 24 percent of mothers; and 39 percent of fathers say they're doing a "very good job" raising their kids, compared to 51 percent of mothers. And 52 percent of fathers in the workforce say it is somewhat or very difficult to balance work and family life.
These Pew findings align with Werk's own research. In our survey, we found that existing workday structures make it challenging for 35 percent of fathers to fulfill their morning caregiving responsibilities, for 33 percent to fulfill their afternoon caregiving responsibilities, for 33 percent to be the types of parents they want to be, for 33 percent to respond to caregiving emergencies, and for 31 percent to attend special events for those for whom they care.
As the workforce evolves, we must support fathers who have careers and caregiving responsibilities—by giving them access to flexibility. And when they opt out of their careers in favor of their caregiving responsibilities, we must support the spouses and partners who become the breadwinners—by giving them not just flexibility, but workplace equality.