Equity In The Workplace Requires Equity In Caregiving

Aline Holzwarth
4 min readFeb 8, 2021
Actor Colin Farrell is not just a celebrity. Perhaps more importantly, he is a loving caregiver to his two sons. Getty Images.

When actor Colin Farrell’s son was diagnosed with the rare genetic disorder Angelman syndrome, he realized he had to spend more time with his son to give him the care and attention he needed. He has said that “being a father is more important to him than his career “ and that “his whole acting business is nothing in comparison.” He adds that “being a dad to these two boys is the most difficult, the most rewarding, the most meaningful and the most consequential thing that [he] will ever do.”

Like Colin Farrell, many men want to spend more time with their children, but face both discrimination because caregiving isn’t perceived as “manly” and structural barriers that make it more difficult for men to devote time to family. To treat this issue like the work issue it is (rather than a “women’s issue”), we need to redefine what it means to be masculine and change the way workplaces treat the role of fathers.

Research in behavioral science shows that to sway public opinion and shift norms, it helps to change the way systems are structured; if work systems are designed to support men in caregiving roles, beliefs will naturally follow. To destigmatize caregiver fathers and pave the way for gender equality in the workplace, flexible work rules and parental leave policies must apply to men and women both, and we need salient examples of fathers prioritizing their families.

Men are still seen as breadwinners and women as caregivers

Despite the progress gained by women entering labor markets in great force over the past 50 years (and largely beginning during WWII), stereotypes of men as breadwinners and women as caregivers persist. While women have taken on additional roles working, they haven’t so successfully shed their mothering roles. Their addition to the workforce hasn’t been met with commensurate subtraction of men. While women are empowered to take on new responsibilities at work, men haven’t retreated from work to take on the same degree of responsibility at home. In married couples where both parents work full time, women spend > 40% more time on childcare than men.

This inequality is not good for women or men. Men experience negative health effects from performing traditional masculine roles and…

Aline Holzwarth

Aline Holzwarth is an applied behavioral scientist, primarily focusing on digital health research and scientifically informed product design. alineholzwarth.com