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In 1977 the United Nations decided to dedicate March 8 to women’s rights. Here in France, as in many other places, women’s rights still have some way to go. French women earn on average 25% less than men. Women are more likely to do part-time work: 82% of all part time work in France is done by the ladies. Women are disadvantaged in the workplace, that castle of men.
But men’s rights have a long way to go as well. Men are disadvantaged in the household, that cathedral of … women.
If you are a man wishing to be involved in rearing your child, good luck. It will be hard to get time off from work for paternal leave. Legally, your employer owes much less time to you than to a woman: French law advantages women, and disadvantages men, when it comes to caring for children. Women are entitled to minimum of 10 weeks of postnatal leave whereas men get … 14 days.
But suppose you find a solution, and your boss generously bestows you with months of paternal leave. You are not out of the woods yet.
You have to face your colleagues. It might be harder to convince them than your boss that you are doing the right thing. Men wishing to be involved in caring for their children face the stigma of engaging in what was once, and still often is, considered a female task. They have to deal with the ridicule of their peers. Approval for male involvement in childrearing is not running high yet.
Then there is the work that you might have taken on in addition to your regular job. If you are an executive, chances are you sit on the board of directors of some corporation. Men represent the majority of directors (about 65% in 2012). Or if you are an academic, chances are that you get solicited more for giving expert advice than women (and you accept these solicitations more as well). So, if you want to look after your child, you will have to curtail these additional activities.
It’s a tough life for men who want to be involved in rearing children. The family game is still largely played according to traditional rules. In fact, the family game is the mirror image of the workplace game: if gender imbalances at work that penalize women are to be addressed, those imbalances in the family arena that penalize men need to be taken care of too.
Photo adapted from fruity monkey