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A 'fatherhood bonus' for working dads can benefit moms too

If dads get bonus points at work for taking on more childcare that could help women too

Call it the Daddy Advantage. Men who request a flexible working arrangement so they can help with childcare are, apparently, viewed more favorably than women who want the same flexibility, according to a new study.

Researcher Dr. Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at Furman University in Greenville, S.C., analyzed the reactions both men and women received when asking to telecommute or work nontraditional hours. She found, for example, that men who requested to work from home for childcare reasons were “significantly advantaged” over women. Nearly 70% of survey participants said they would be “likely” or “very likely” to approve the man’s request, compared with about 57% who would grant the woman’s request.

Not only were men more likely to get the flex working schedule, they were also held in higher regard just for asking. Almost a quarter of survey participants found the man to be “extremely likable,” compared with only 3% who found the woman to be “extremely likable.”

The results suggest there is a “fatherhood bonus” in the workplace for men who break traditional gender roles and assume more responsibility for childcare, Munsch told Mashable.

But while some may bemoan the fatherhood bonus as another sign of inequality in the workplace, I say the Daddy Advantage is actually a good thing and will end up benefiting women, too.

If the fatherhood bonus encourages more dads to take on childcare responsibilities, that’s great for women, who often carry the larger parenting load, and for men, who will get to be more involved in their kids’ daily lives without fear of jeopardizing their career. And as more men adopt flexible working schedules, telecommuting or nontraditional hours will become standard employment accommodations, not an exception carved out for the few employees who ask. And it reduces the stigma that parents -- women and men -- may face in the workplace.

Yes, it’s frustrating that Munsch’s survey found that women who requested flexible work schedules were seen as less likable and less committed than men who sought the same accommodations. But I’d like to think the fatherhood bonus and the motherhood penalty are temporary phases in a generational shift going on in families and in workplaces in which traditional gender roles are disappearing. Hopefully, the dads and moms who take advantage of flexible working schedules today will become bosses and CEOs who ensure their employees have the ability to balance family and career. 

For more opinions, follow me @kerrycavan

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