Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
save over 85%
$0.99
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
$0.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Ivona Hideg is an associate professor and the Ann Brown Chair in organization studies at York University’s Schulich School of Business.

International Women’s Day is an opportunity to reflect on the progress that’s been made. But perhaps it can also be an occasion to envision meaningful change.

To date, most efforts aimed at improving gender equality have focused on breaking down the barriers that women face at work. The past decade has seen considerable progress in this regard, including the #MeToo movement, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s landmark gender-equal cabinet in 2015, and recent attention paid to gender imbalances in various professions and boards.

Story continues below advertisement

But while significant strides have been made, we’ve seen far less success on the home front. Traditional gender roles persist, resulting in an unequal division of household labour, predominantly with respect to child-rearing; this constitutes the most enduring and problematic gender barrier remaining today.

This is why the gender-equality conversation needs to include men. If women are going to do less work at home, men will have to do more.

So how do we get there?

Gender roles are deeply ingrained in our society. Men have long been considered better leaders because they are more often seen in those roles, while women are considered to be more proficient at caring for others for the same reason. To change these stereotypes, we need to see more women demonstrating their skills as business leaders and more men occupying caregiving roles at home. Unfortunately, women still do the majority of the domestic tasks and spend more time looking after children. If we’re going to make real progress, we need to write a new story about how men and women share household chores.

Businesses, particularly those that consider themselves leaders in gender equality, have a role to play in getting their male employees to take on a more significant role at home. Surveys reveal that many men express a desire to access family-friendly initiatives such as paternity leave, flextime, telecommuting and a compressed work week. With such policies thrust into the spotlight amid the COVID-19 pandemic, this is a great opportunity to create a better work/life balance for both men and women.

And yet traditional gender roles are still getting in the way. Male workers, for example, have often used flextime to advance their careers through means such as skills development and networking. Women, on the other hand, generally see flextime as an opportunity to balance child-care duties with their work load. We need to shake this up. Using these policies should be encouraged – even celebrated – so men can shoulder a greater share of domestic burdens. Once this becomes accepted practice, the hoary stereotypes will fall.

Another area ripe for male-led change is parental leave. We know that men who take parental leave are more likely to consider themselves equal partners in raising their children. So how do we get more men to stay home with their babies?

Story continues below advertisement

The best practice would be to create a system that reserves a portion of available parental leave exclusively for fathers. Canada offers ample evidence on how important this can be. Across the country, only 15 per cent of new dads take a portion of the available 35 weeks of shared parental leave. In Quebec, however, a five-week, fathers-only parental leave program has pushed the take-up rate past 80 per cent. A new federal program modeled on the Quebec experience should move the dial in the coming years. Businesses should follow this lead with their own leave policies.

Finally, we need to denormalize our culture of overwork. A requirement for long hours in many professions impedes the careers of women who aren’t able to devote that much time to their jobs. But it also hurts men, because they tend to work more hours than women. The gap in paid working hours is actually the widest of 18 different gender inequalities examined in a recent OECD study on Canada. This is a big problem: if men spend more time working for pay, it follows that they’ll have less time to devote to home life.

Excessive work habits also reduce the overall well-being of men by increasing stress and lowering life satisfaction. It is therefore in men’s own interest to accept a greater share of domestic responsibilities while easing back on time spent at the office. This is a case where we can improve gender equality while also improving outcomes for men. But to get there, societal and organizational expectations need to change.

For too long, discussions about gender equality have ignored or excluded men. It’s time we accepted that men need to be part of the solution – and that true gender equality entails enabling men to have equal access to caregiving and family time.

Keep your Opinions sharp and informed. Get the Opinion newsletter. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies