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#ShareBaby campaign reflects a cultural shift in parenting

SheSays, the global network for women in the creative industry, has launched a new campaign to promote shared parental leave, in the midst of a significant cultural shift in parenting.

Nicola Kemp

Managing Editor, BITE

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SheSays is calling on companies to actively encourage fathers to take up shared parental leave and commit to promoting the fact that both parents can share leave.

In 2015 the UK government introduced shared parental leave and pay allowing both parents to share up to 50 weeks of leave, yet uptake has been minimal. To address the disconnect SheSays has launched the #ShareBaby campaign. Companies can visit the website to pledge to support the campaign. This will be promoted to SheSays’ 40,000 members in 40 cities across the world. Companies which sign up to the pledge will be listed as a good place to work for progressive couples.

The website also includes top tips for employees taking parental leave. These include a call to ‘be realistic’. As the campaign explains, “You have new responsibilities as a parent plus all the great working skills you had previously. It can be hard at first to find a balance and new routine but above all be kind to yourself. It will take time to adjust but you’ll get there.”

Fabiana Xavier, President of SheSays London, said that over the years the majority of its members have expressed frustration with discrimination and the struggle to balance a successful career and family life. She explains, “Enabling parents to #ShareBaby is a vital step towards achieving equality in the workplace and beyond. Raising a child is an equal effort, and as such, we want companies to stop defining how parents parent, and instead allow them to share the load. By giving parents the power to make the decision about how they divide their parental leave and pay will enable society to progress and evolve with how modern couples want to parent.”

2%
eligible parents are currently making use of shared parental leave
50%
men believe that fathers are treated equally to mothers
77%
women have said they have suffered discrimination during their pregnancy, maternity leave & returning to work

Breaking the stereotype of the ‘hapless dad’

The shift to equality both at home and in the workplace is fundamental cultural change which should be top of the agenda within the creative industries. Yet the Advertising Standard’s Authority’s (ASA) decision to ban Philadelphia’s recent advert suggests the industry is in danger of simply replacing one stereotype with another.

The ad was one of the first spots to be banned by the ASA as part of its gender stereotyping guidelines. In the ad the ‘tired working mother’ trope was replaced by a somewhat hapless dad, with two fathers losing their babies because they were so enamoured with their Philadelphia cheese-laden bagels.

These stereotypes cause real-world harm and according to research from the Nuffield Foundation, fathers are twice as likely than mothers to have requests for flexible working turned down.

Alison Green, Managing Director of WOMBA Group, explained, “Since I had my children a couple of decades ago, it’s been great to see the positive changes for working mums. But what about the dads? All parents should have the opportunity to combine working with raising their family in a way that is equitable, doesn’t disadvantage them and allows them to balance their responsibilities at home or at work.”

Xavier hopes that the campaign will begin to reduce discrimination against women of a childbearing age and mark the end of the belief that women automatically have to sacrifice their career for a family. It also aims to remove the stigma of men taking time off work to care for their children, enabling them to feel more comfortable about wanting to stay home for longer than two weeks. She added, “Overall, we hope to be able to highlight that both men and women can continue to thrive in their careers, while also being parents.” It’s a shift which requires a significant change in both how parents are depicted in advertising and treated in the workplace.

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