The lack of focus on the experiences of fathers over the years has often ledto a misunderstanding of the important role they play in American family life. From the absence of attention in research, to the inaccurate portrayals in the media, to the outdated workplace assumptions about the caregiving roles that fathers play, men have continued to be seen as minor players in the family. While some progress is being made to better understand the roles fathers play today, much more research and greater insight is needed.
We believe that it is time to do a “hard reset” – at home, in the workplace, and in society. It’s time to ask ourselves why, as we’ve redefined the role of women in the work- place over the past 25 years, we have been much less able to do the same for men on the home front.
No doubt, a major contributor to this situation is men themselves. For far too long, fathers’ voices have beensilent and almost entirely absent from work-family con- versations. This has had a detrimental effect on fathers’ ability to redefine their role based on the needs of con- temporary families. It’s time to see more clearly what dads are doing in the family and ask how we can help them do it better. We have begun to see positive early results of men speaking out, particularly by men in at- home dads’ networks. The change in how dads are being portrayed in advertisements is a good example of how change can come from research, media attention, and the voices of dads themselves.
We are convinced that gender equity will never be attained until workplaces and society see men and fathers from a “whole person” perspective. When we achieve that aim, we will have enhanced workplaces, created a more equitable society, and strengthened the most important building block to ensure our prosperity – the American family.