In a world where men are discouraged from caretaking because it’s not considered masculine, women must pick up the load and, in the process, stifle ambitious career aspirations. In a paper published in the Northwestern University Law Review, Willamette University professor Keith Cunningham-Parmeter argues that giving American men a bonus will improve gender relations.
Specifically, Cunningham-Parmeter proposes giving men extra paid leave if they spend time at home with a newborn. He calls this the “fatherhood bonus” and it is something that men in other parts of the first world already get.
The “fatherhood bonus” could help to finally achieve workplace equity for women. The inequity of lower wages and less promotion opportunities for women is, partially, the result of the expectation that women will do the lion’s share of caring for children. Since women are expected to take paid leave to attend the family at home, the incentive to offer women raises and promotions wanes.
If men took equal time off to care for children (and our laws do allow for that) then employers might more seriously consider women for raises and promotions. Currently, men do take some time off to spend time with children. This time, though, is often limited only to the beginning of their children’s lives. Men aren’t expected to be there over the long-haul, women are. It’s simply countercultural, in a patriarchal culture, for men to take quality time off to spend time with their offspring. I mean, what would happen to their careers?
Women don’t have the luxury of choosing career over children or to have both. According to Cunningham-Parmeter, as quoted in Bloomberg, “Today the primary obstacle holding women back at work is not a ‘glass ceiling’ but a ‘maternal wall.’” Single ladies are affected just as much because, based on their condition as women, employers will quietly set caps on how long their careers will last. It’s maternal profiling.
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Employers are surely not thrilled at the idea of paying men more money to work less. After all, isn’t business all about driving down overhead? Cunningham-Parmeter suggests, Bloomberg reports, “a system modeled on experiments in California and New Jersey, where employees themselves fund dual-parental benefits through payroll taxes.”
Cunningham-Parmeter’s prescription is one possible solution to workplace inequity. Sadly, even he has no answer to the central problem of why men need to be motivated, some would say bribed, to care for their own children in the first place.