Miss Utah may not have won the Miss USA Pageant, but her unfortunate response to a convoluted question about the gender pay gap has resurrected interest in the changing work force.
It hardly needed resurrecting, however. Ever since the release of Sheryl Sandberg’s working mom manifesto “Lean In” was released in March, the media has focused much time and attention to the shifting role of men and women in the workplace and what’s perceived to be the inadequacy of the private-sector’s attempts to accommodate.
Women, however, are not the only ones affected by the changing workplace.
Stephanie Marchie’s article “Home Economics: The link between work-life balance and income equality,” which ran Thursday morning on Atlantic.com, points out that with all the media attention aimed at women in the work force, the struggles men are facing have remained relatively unnoticed.
“Men’s absence from the conversation about work and life is strange,” she wrote. “Decisions about who works and who takes care of the children, and who makes the money and how the money is spent, are not decided by women alone or by some vague and impersonal force called society.”
As Marchie points out, there’s a lot at stake for men as the work force continues to change and the opportunity to combat “outdated assumptions about fatherhood” will remain unchallenged unless more men begin to speak up.
More importantly, she writes, “key realities about the relationship between work and family are elided.”
Tara Siegel Bernard of The New York Times wrote last week about one area that is making it difficult for men to share more household duties. According to her article, “The unspoken stigma of workplace flexibility,” contrary to common belief, men are more frequently harmed by what she calls “flexibility stigma,” or the negative perception some employers have of those who alter their work schedules to tend to family duties.
“They’re viewed as more feminine, deviating from their traditional role of fully committed breadwinners,” Bernard wrote.
“It is clear that many American families crave flexibility,” she continued, “especially as traditional gender roles of mothers and fathers continue to blur.”
Bernard cites a 2013 study by The Journal of Social Issues that shows men were more likely to be penalized in a professional sense — i.e., less likely to receive raises or get promoted — for taking time off after the birth of a child.
“For women to be able to take advantage of these arrangements without judgment, men need to use them freely, too,” Bernard concluded. “But that requires viewing men not solely as breadwinners, but as individuals who also have the same choices as women.”