International Woman’s Day celebrates women’s achievements while calling for gender equality. Although we are making progress to close the gender pay gap and achieve gender-balanced leadership, there are still many areas haltering progress toward true gender equality.
A significant contributing factor can be seen in the difficult decision women are forced to make between having a career and having children. As women, we are still constrained by the expectations society places on us when it comes to pregnancy and childcare. But why should we have to sacrifice the career we’ve worked so hard to build?
When I decided to have a baby, one of my main anxieties was over how I could balance continuing to work and being a mum. I love my job. I love having something that is ‘mine’ – that keeps my mind active and that I’ve worked hard to make a success. I would hate to throw in the towel just because I was having a baby. It’s something my partner and I discussed at great length and we eventually decided we both wanted to continue to work and share childcare.
Although this was easy in theory, it was much more difficult in reality.
Whilst most employers on the Isle of Man are willing to allow women flexible working arrangements to fit in with childcare, it seemed they aren’t quite as lenient for men. My boyfriend’s place of work point-blank refused to reduce his hours so that he could help me raise our child, and after speaking to other dads on the Island, it seemed this is a common problem within both the public and the private sector.
Employers simply aren’t recognising the need for fathers to play an active role in raising their children. Instead, they still see this as the woman’s role and are unwilling to offer flexible working arrangements that allow shared paternity.
In contrast, Swedish fathers are able to take five months off work to encourage fairer sharing of leave between men and women. And in Norway, the statutory parental leave is either 49 weeks at 100% salary or 59 weeks at 80% salary to be divided between both parents. Scandinavian countries are notorious for their progressive outlook on equality between women and men, and of the idea that it is natural that both genders share not only the same rights and obligations, but also the same opportunities.
Wouldn’t it be great if the Isle of Man could follow their lead by introducing a shared paternity allowance or by simply allowing expectant fathers the ability to reduce their hours for a temporary measure if they wanted to? Not only would this provide new fathers with the chance to spend quality time with their child, it allows more women to continue working.
I believe women should be encouraged to continue their careers after starting a family and men should be given more opportunities to work flexible hours. Shared paternity allowance would make a huge difference to closing the gender gap and something the Isle of Man should embrace to support both men and women.