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Managers attitudes are crucial in take-up of family leaves by fathers and promoting women career prospects

In workplaces we need more fathers to take long family leaves: periods that last several months, or even half a year − or up to one year. The Equality and Fathers Project (2019-2021) in Finland aims at strengthening parenthood and equality at workplaces. It is both a research and a development project. The project is coordinated by Väestöliitto, the Family Federation of Finland (COFACE member) and funded by The Finnish Work and Environment Fund.

Equality is a crucial quality factor of working life. The months that fathers use parental leave options (marked for them alone, or divisible for both the parents) influence positively work and family life. It is crucial for women’s career prospects and division of house and care work which often becomes more “traditional” when a child is born.

In this project research questions are: Why do fathers typically use only a few weeks paternity leave? What would make them use more other family leaves? Are there some structural barriers in companies that make fathers willing (or unwilling) to take long parental leaves? How do people in leading positions influence willingness, attitudes and choices concerning fathers’ leaves?

In the Equality and Fathers Project both quantitative and qualitative data is being gathered in three different companies from different fields. The methods used are staff surveys and focus group interviews. Managers, coaches, specialists and blue-collar workers have been interviewed in separate groups. Survey data is collected before developmental steps inside the organisation and afterwards in order to get information of change.

The survey data and focus group interviews are going to be repeated in the end of 2020. After the data analysis it will be interesting to see what kind of changes have happened in father friendliness in the companies analysed.

Preliminary data indicates that many reasons influence father-friendliness: e.g. the size of the organisation, the branch, gender distribution, occupations, flexibility in working times, possibilities of remote work, and the working climate and culture inside the organisation. The managers’ attitudes mean a lot for father-friendliness and for family-friendliness in general.

“In the beginning of the project we noticed that father-friendliness and equality issues differed to some extent in the companies. However, there were also some similar structures and starting points “, says Ms. Anna Kokko, Project Manager at Väestöliitto. “At the moment we implement different steps in all the project companies. E.g. we publish videos and podcasts on father-friendliness in order to raise awareness. Our aim is to change attitudes towards more father-friendly organisational cultures. The companies develop their own guidelines around father-friendliness. Furthermore, we organize workshops and support the companies to make positive communication outcomes on the theme”.

During 2020-21 project publications, blogs as well as couple of master’s dissertations are going to be published. In the end of the project it will be possible to see if there are any differences between the companies, and which kind of changes have happened in all of them. Is it possible to create work-life-balance in different fields, among genders and in different professional positions?

“We really want to make a change in our company. We want to support fathers in their parenthood and mothers in their careers. That’s why we wanted to join this project”, says one director from one of the companies involved in the project.

For more information:
Ms. Anna Kokko
Project Manager
Equality and Fathers Project
Väestöliitto, the Family Federation of Finland

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