Working fathers are the new target of microaggressions and are worried they could be ‘tracked by dads’

“I always put my career first and my family did well.”

“It must be nice to get home early.” (Said to a father after saying he was going to take care of his sick son.)

These are all true statements that managers have made to men who were trying to be more present in their families’ lives.

Today, as different ways of working collide, men who want to be full parents are facing the kind of workplace discrimination that working moms have dealt with for decades. Some men worry that these comments could be a sign that they are “tracking dad,” while others dismiss the phrases as microaggressions.

Whatever you call them, such offensive and unnecessary statements demotivate workers or inspire them to find another job. While these are often statements from older male leaders, these barbs can also come from female leaders who have navigated waves of misogyny to advance their careers.

Men want to spend more time with their families

“I actually started recording these comments because of how often I heard them after the birth of our daughter,” said Eric Arthrell, who worked as a consultant for Deloitte and was the lead writer of the company’s blog. Everyday men’s design report, which examined how men are reacting to the end of traditional gender norms. Now he runs a company that produces bamboo handkerchiefs.

Eric recalls that a manager, a woman, cut him off because he left at five in the afternoon to catch the train home to his newborn baby and his wife who was on maternity leave. “You really don’t have the personality of a driver,” he remembered her saying.

Dozens of studies have shown the benefits to children when fathers take parental leave to bond with them. The extra time also helps the extended family figure out one of life’s biggest transitions: caring for a young child.

There is also an economic benefit for employers. Companies that have adopted fairer leave policies have found that people leave their jobs less, feel more engaged and connected to their managers, and are generally grateful for a benefit that has tangible utility, Brad Harrington, executive director of Boston College Center for Work and Family at the Carroll School of Management, he told me.

Many companies that were early adopters of equal parental leave told Harrington they did so because they thought men wouldn’t take time off. The men not only accepted it, but also reported feeling less stressed and more engaged afterward, so executives started listening.

However, microaggressions persist as a form of discrimination that is allowed to pass.

Because managers think such statements are OK

Much of this stems from biases common to anyone even vaguely familiar with the behavioral sciences, namely confirmation and anchoring biases. Or put another way: “I’ve done things this way and you should too.”

Michael Cohen, a human resources partner at a Philadelphia law firm, remembers his partners telling him when his daughters were born that they had missed out on so much of their children’s lives so they could work. These men were boastful, not remorseful.

After two decades, Cohen, now a partner, encourages his partners to take full parental leave. He also strives to create an environment in which they can participate fully in their children’s lives.

This is a step in the right direction. Before the pandemic, companies were generally comfortable with men becoming “event dads.” Managers were fine with them leaving to go to a game or recital at noon. But where there is a disconnect – and that is where these dismissive comments originate. It’s about men who want to be fully involved in their children’s lives and share the responsibilities of caring and planning for their family.

These “lead dads” are a growing group: In the United States, 2 to 3 million stay-at-home fathers are, 18 percent of fathers are divorced, widowed, or otherwise single, and 46 percent of married women earn as much or more. of their husbands. They are natural allies to working mothers who have long been stigmatized and sidetracked as they juggled motherhood and paid work. When these two groups come together, they form a powerful bloc. And the management takes note of it.

What companies can do to eliminate microaggressions and improve caring culture in the workplace

Employers should think about benefits for working parents as part of a broader care strategy. Some workers may not be parents, but all will be caregivers in their lifetime.

To this end, we encouraged companies to focus on the three Cs of care at work: care days, care shifts and care confabs.

Care days are separate from sick days, personal days, bereavement days and certainly vacation days. They are designated days that allow workers to be honest when they need a day or two to take care of a health emergency.

Nursing shifts offer workers the ability to work a day that fluctuates between dedicated collaboration time (say, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and the ability to work non-traditional hours.

Care confabs are organized discussions about parenting and caregiving that include men and women. Currently, most resource groups for parents or caregivers are made up of working women, but lack men in similar situations.

Additionally, managers need to have assessments that include an assessment of work-life integration and hybrid working. Whatever senior leaders’ feelings about returning to the office full time, the facts paint a different picture. Few people are willing to be in the office five days a week and resist what they see as attendance-gathering strategies. The pandemic has shown us that the most sought-after employees can be productive in different settings and want companies to be intentional with requests for in-person time.

Finally, whatever you do, avoid one thing at all costs: Don’t say to anyone returning from parental leave, “How was your time off?”

Paul Sullivan, a New York Times business columnist from 2008 to 2021, is the founder of The company of fathersa media company, community platform and workplace educator aimed at Lead Dads, those men who are the go-to parents, no matter what else they do.

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The opinions expressed in comments represent solely the views of the relevant authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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