I started this blog for two reasons: Firstly my passion for and belief that work-life balance should be universally accessible. When we lead balanced lives we benefit and those around us benefit.
Secondly – and as importantly – because the enduring lack of balanced working options at senior levels continues to block the progression of many women.
Social attitudes towards parenting have been shifting rapidly but the belief that taking care of children – and elderly relatives – is still primarily a woman’s responsibility continues. As long as corporate cultures refuse to acknowledge the challenges this poses women continue to be forced to make choices between career and caring.
Until now most of my posts have been written with working mothers in mind. So I felt it was time to acknowledge the increasing challenges faced by working fathers.
Last month the American Psychological Association published research findings showing that men and women around the world experience similar levels of work-family conflicts. The struggles of men are – however – largely unreported.
The role of fathers has shifted dramatically in one or two generations. Younger men generally want more day to day involvement in their children’s lives. Professor Caroline Gatrell of Lancaster University calls this ‘involved fathering’.
And legislation is increasingly supporting them. For example, the UK recently introduced Shared Parental Leave.
When they opt to become Balanced Leaders men face many of the same challenges faced by women. Men are also worried about how a desire for work-life balance will penalise career progression. And those entrenched social expectations make it difficult for them to talk openly about the issue.
At the Wharton Business School Professor Stew Friedman has been running the Total Leadership Programme since the early 1990s. The programme guides and supports both men and women to balanced leadership in every area of their lives.
Programmes like Stew’s are rare. Senior male role models are rare – although high profile men are beginning to step up as visible champions of balanced working. Men are being challenged to both redefine masculinity and the status quo of outdated corporate cultures. In many ways they are as much pioneers as the women I’ve written about in earlier posts.
When we support men to be Balanced Leaders we support their wellbeing and we provide new role models for the next generation. And as Balanced Leadership slowly becomes the norm it will also positively benefit women’s career progression.