Fathers protesting unequal treatment at work

Fatherhood has changed a lot on recent decades as men take on more of an upbringing role in the home. In the workplace? Not so much, the Boston Globe reports.

It says a “wave” of lawsuits has highlighted unequal treatment in the workplace. Fathers can’t get a break when they have to reconcile the needs of their employers with the needs of their children.

“Domestic roles are changing much more quickly than workplace norms,” said Jennifer Berdahl, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s business school who has studied mistreatment of workers based on gender. “There is quite a bit of this kind of behavior against men in the workplace who don’t conform to traditional male roles.”

Her 2013 study found that fathers who are active caregivers are more subject to harassment at work; it’s what she calls the “not man enough” effect. Another study found male caregivers are mistreated more in the workplace than other men, while mothers with children are treated better in the workplace than women without children.

This is not entirely the fault of employers. Men tend to define themselves through work and can fall into what Berdahl calls “My hours are longer than yours” masculinity contests.

Recent research from Erin Reid at Boston University found that some men try to “pass” as ideal workers by keeping time spent with their families under the radar — say, taking a work call at a child’s soccer game but not revealing where they are.

Men also sometimes get teased by male co-workers for being an involved parent, making it less socially acceptable for them to take time off to care for their children, said Jamie Ladge, a management and organizational development professor at Northeastern University.

“We always say women are their own worst enemies, but I think men are their own worst enemies, as well,” said Ladge, whose upcoming book discusses the unequal treatment active male caregivers face. “It does come down to this attack on their masculinity.”