Workforce.com

Discrimination Against Dads

October 5, 2001
On a recent Friday night, I made a presentation to a group of accounting andfinance professionals in Florida on behalf of my company.Towards the end of the seminar, one man from the audience asked me what I hadplanned to do afterwards. I enthusiastically replied that I had made plans tofly out to Dallas to see my daughter play basketball, as she was playing inthe state all-star tournament.

    As I thanked my audience for its time and preparedto leave for the airport, the same man approached me and spoke of his amazementthat I was able to escape work for the night to go visit my daughter. My immediatereply was, "Who wouldn't be able to leave on a Friday night to visit withhis child, especially to take part in such an important day of her life!"

    "A lot of people," the man answered. "Takeevery man at my office as an example."

    He then proceeded to go into great detail about howhis employer prohibits putting family before work, and even refers to spendingtime with children as "the woman's job." He said he and the othermen he worked with would be prohibited to do what I was doing. He reminded meonce again how lucky I was, and he set off to work the night away.

    As I sat on the plane later on that night, I couldn'thelp but think how sad this man's situation was. I realized that though thisparticular example might have been extreme, most fathers in the workplace todaydo not feel able to take time off for their families at leisure. I even thoughtback to my past working environments and how often times those of us who wantedto take paternity leave or just time off to be with the kids, were referredto as "wimps." Getting involved in coaching was frowned upon and althoughnot spoken, it truly was inferred than men should let the wives take care ofthe children.

    It's amazing -- we've come a long way in our societyin recognizing a woman's role in the family unit is not limited to mother andhomemaker. It is common, if not standard today, for women to contribute 50%of the household income along with her husband. Employers have been responsivein accepting this trend, offering many female employees extended maternity leave,flextime, in-office childcare and the ability to telecommute. And though wearen't at the end of this road yet, we are well on our way.

    But it starts to beg the question -- what about Dad?Just as society has finally recognized that financial support for the familycan, or even should, be an equal contribution from both husband and wife, soshould the role as caretaker and parent. Not spending time with Dad is justas detrimental to a child's well being as not being with Mom. Today's typicalemployers are not only oblivious to a father's need to spend extra time withhis children, they actually discourage it behind the scenes -- even discriminateagainst it.

    We need to increase awareness of this issue that seemsto have been brushed aside for so long. Just as we are far down the path forrespect for a mother's equal role in the workplace and family, we have yet tostart the journey for the father. Fortunately for me, our CEO is a good dad,which sets a standard for the others. But to other employers: Are you discriminatingagainst Dad? If so, what do you propose to do?