Paternity leave would make it possible to fight against certain sexist prejudices

Home Paternity leave would make it possible to fight against certain sexist prejudices
Written by Doug Hampton

(ETX Daily Up) – The extension of paternity leave in many countries around the world, including France, has been adopted in order to promote gender equality at home and at work, and to undermine number of gender stereotypes. A new study conducted by American researchers supports these benefits, suggesting that paternity leave helps to reduce certain sexist attitudes and promote policies and interventions aimed at women.

A subject of debate and discussion, paternity leave has seen its duration lengthen in recent years in many countries around the world. The goal? Increase the involvement and role of the father from the first days of the child, in favor of the health and well-being of the child, and reduce certain inequalities, whether related to finances, mental workload, or others, between men and women. In France, paternity leave has been extended to 25 days from July 1, 2021, compared to 11 days previously, to which are added 3 days of birth leave. But the duration is not the same all over the world. Researchers from Washington University in Saint-Louis, in the United States, wanted to examine the impact of the extension of these leaves for fathers on certain sexist prejudices, and on the support given to the policies carried out aimed at women.

Fight against certain sexist attitudes

Published in the journal American Political Science Review, their work focused more specifically on the extension of paternity leave in Estonia, where the new parental leave policy has allowed it to be tripled to 30 days paid at 100% according to data presented by the European Parliament, from 2020. The team of scientists more specifically carried out two studies in the country: the first focused on parents and future parents who benefited from the reform, and a second conducted with a sample representative of the national population before the implementation of the said reform. The whole having for objective to determine the potential new choices of life of the parents concerned by the extension of the paternity leave, but also to observe the reactions of the whole of the population, before and after the reform, vis-à-vis sexist statements such as “men make better political leaders” or “a toddler can suffer if his mother works”.

Verdict: the first survey suggests that the parents concerned by the reform have a greater propensity to support gender equality in the social and economic spheres than the others. The difference between the two groups would be about 20%, say the researchers. In the same vein, parents who gave birth to children after the implementation of the reform were more inclined to support women wishing to engage in politics. “Gender norms and biases are difficult to overcome because they are deeply embedded in our society. Extending leave to fathers, however, has the power to reduce gender biases because it disrupts traditional male and gender roles. women and promotes less stereotypical roles,” said Margit Tavits, one of the study’s authors.

Work for gender equality

One downside, however. While the women affected by the reform were more inclined to support actions aimed at favoring or promoting women to the detriment of men, the latter did not follow the same path. “Researchers did not find such an uptick in support for positive actions from men,” a statement read. Moreover, the second study, conducted among the general population, showed no change in attitude towards support for such policies or gender equality.

“Our results show that direct exposure to progressive social policy can weaken sexist attitudes, providing governments with a practical and effective tool to reduce harmful biases,” says Margit Tavits. And to add: “The old policies perpetuated the belief that women were the main carers of young children. By providing a benefit that men can only access if they choose to play a role of non-traditional aid, fathers’ leave directly encourages mothers and fathers to conceive their social roles in a less stereotypical way.Assigning roles to men and women that contradict stereotypical gender expectations allows each group to associate other social roles and promotes a less unequal perception of the essential attributes of women and men”.

While further and broader work is needed to know the real benefits of extending paternity leave, the researchers conclude that “other policy interventions that expand the roles of men and women” could do even more to work towards gender equality.

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