On November 13, Concordia and Philip Morris International (PMI) will co-host a breakfast focusing on diversity and inclusion. Josh Levs, former NPR and CNN journalist and leading global expert on “modern dads at work,” will deliver remarks on the role working fathers play in achieving gender equality. We recently sat down with Josh to get his insight into this critical area.
Josh, what are the most important ways the #MeToo era is shaping the future of the modern workplace?
The #MeToo era provides a tremendous opportunity to reduce sexual harassment in the workplace, and potentially across society at large. It’s great to see some people who have misused their power be brought to account and at least have to pay some price. Still, businesses need clearer action steps, and this is what I’m working with them on. These include: training around power and consciousness of power; establishing safe avenues for reporting; clearly spelling out the rights of accusers and the accused, and a lot more. Myriad forces lead to workplace sexual harassment, and it takes deep work to start knocking them down.
What does the U.S. get wrong about parental leave? Are the Scandanavian countries the only ones that get it right?
The U.S. is virtually the only country in the world that lacks national paid maternity leave. And paternity leave is rare here among businesses. Both of these problems are the result of the sexism of the Mad Men era. Our workplaces and our society at large need a whole new relationship to the idea of paid family leave. There are systems that are proven to boost business profits, attraction and retention, and employee satisfaction.
A few nations in northern Europe have demonstrated the ways that laws can help overcome gender-based stigmas and build greater gender equality. There are lessons to be learned from them, but their exact template would not work here in the U.S. In my opinion, that’s because we have a different relationship to the ideas of taxation, the role of government, and what’s often referred to as the “free market.” However, paid family leave plans in individual states are helping move things in the right direction and reduce the stigmas.
Today’s fathers are struggling in the shadows. They want more time at home to do caregiving, but the laws, policies, and stigmas are holding them back.
Are you ever met with women taking issue with the notion of a man championing women’s issues? How do you overcome this challenge and ensure that people are receptive to your message?
This is very rare. Just as women and men championed my legal case for fair parental leave, all of us who want true gender equality can and should be on one team. Gender equality benefits everyone. In fact, it’s not a women’s issue, it’s an issue for everyone! Men stand to gain just as much…The things I’m pushing for benefit women, men, children, economies, and entire societies. They’re a win-win.
What are the under-recognized struggles of working fathers? How do they differ from those of working mothers?
Today’s fathers are struggling in the shadows. They want more time at home to do caregiving, but the laws, policies, and stigmas are holding them back. For example, as I explained in my opening remarks at the United Nations, the lack of paid maternity leave hurts the entire family and keeps men working when they’re needed at home. The same goes for policies that allow women, but not men, time off after a birth. In fact, after my legal case was filed, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sent out guidance saying that all businesses must make caregiving leave clearly distinguished from medical recovery leave, and caregiving leave must be gender neutral. Businesses that don’t follow this guidance open themselves up to legal liability. Everything that hampers women at work also hampers men at home. Fixing this is the great unknown half of what it takes to achieve gender equality.
The myth that fathers are lazy, that they get more leisure time and leave far too much work for mothers to do, is false and a major obstacle to gender equality.
A major part of your job involves debunking stereotypes and myths about the division of labor. What is the biggest misconception you’ve encountered?
The myth that fathers are lazy, that they get more leisure time and leave far too much work for mothers to do, is false and a major obstacle to gender equality. Today’s fathers and mothers put in equal work hours (the combination of paid work, unpaid work, and childcare). I break this down in detail in my book and in a special section of my website (I actually spent 20 years as a journalist, including 10 at CNN where I was the lead on-air fact checker).
The myth of the lazy dad is holding back women’s careers. It is fueling backward laws, policies, and stigmas that act as gender police, pushing men and women into traditional roles. It’s one of the reasons I couldn’t have the time to care for my daughter, even after she was born prematurely in an emergency. And it’s preventing businesses from holding onto their best female employees. We must end this myth.
What would the average work week look in an ideal world?
Great question! It’s time for us all to start thinking of work as what you accomplish, not what your week looks like. With modern technology, huge numbers of employees can get their work done at locations and times that work for their family life. Sadly, far too many businesses still judge workers by how much time they spend sitting at their desks. The facts show that those who sit at their desks the most are very rarely the most productive. Businesses need to align around expecting certain amounts of work to be done and assessing how much work any employee gets done, not where they are at any given second.
Learn more about fatherhood, the modern workplace, and gender equity at https://joshlevs.com/