More women in leadership? Treat dads better

by Jul 16, 2019

Dads being treated well will lead to more women in leadership

To achieve better balance in the workplace with more women in leadership roles, we need dads to be able to enjoy time with their kids too.

There is a huge amount of circular discussion around women in leadership and the leaking talent pipeline. Studies show that women led businesses and gender balanced organisations are more effective, creative and profitable. Many businesses and institutions are making a commitment to attract, recruit and retain female talent, but still the needle barely shifts.

Studies show that women are just as ambitious as men. Women we know are eager to lead teams. McKinsey revealed that 79% of entry-level women, and 83% of middle-management women, are eager to move to the next level at work. 75% have ambitions to move to top management roles, including the C-suite. This puts them on par with their male counterparts.

more women in leadership


So, what is going wrong? Where is the disconnect? If your organisation was a product, would it be a case of not selling the product in the right way? Or that your product isn’t right for the target market? It’s probably a mix of both. What holds women back? What can be done to support and prepare them? And more importantly, how can companies adapt to meet the needs of a changing workforce? Right now, women are so far leaned in they are falling over.

We need to ask the right questions of both men and women.

Are you struggling to attract more women in leadership roles? Check out our FREE ebook with 12 key steps to attract, recruit and retain top female talent.

Women are motivated to pursue their careers. In Europe they make up 46.2% of the workforce and in the US it’s 50%. Research from Catalyst shows that women hold under a quarter (24%) of senior roles across the world in 2018. This is a decrease from 25% in 2017. In 2018, 75% of businesses had at least one woman in senior management, compared to 66% in 2017. But at the same time, 25% of global businesses have no women in senior management roles.

Women are often overlooked. Very often, assumptions are made about what both men and women want. It’s assumed that women will not want to relocate or spend time away from their families. Natalia, a European Commission Policy Advisor, told me “I was not offered an opportunity for an international mission because I had only been married for six months. It was assumed I would not want to be apart from my “new” husband. I was 36, not 16, and we had been together for 10 years.”

But what about men?

It’s important not to make biased and discriminatory assumptions. A new Indeed survey, released last month highlights that it’s not only mothers whose life perceptions change after the arrival of a new child.

88% of dads said having a child changed how they viewed their career. 87% cited different career goals and 77% said they had new views on corporate culture.

60% of dads said employers should formalize a set number of flexible hours for parents to use to attend mid-day activities. And an equal number said employers should have a policy allowing parents to use their sick days to stay home when their children are sick. Plus, more than half (53%) said employers should allow more flexibility to work from home.

Sadly, research from Eurobarometer suggests that 43%  still believe the most important role of a man is to earn money. So this shows that it’s also about driving a shift in cultural perception.

Give dads more leave

If we want to see more women in leadership, the best way is to give men greater access to paid leave. Ernst & Young (EY) standardized its parental leave program. They decided to give new fathers 16 weeks of paid leave. Following this, both the number and percentage of men taking the full amount of leave more than doubled in two years.

Additionally, turnover among female employees declined. It dropped from 15% higher than men 15 years ago, to between 0% to 2% higher now. EY believes this decrease can be at least partially attributed to the leave program.


Working mothers tend to earn less than other women, but fathers earn more than men without kids. The ongoing unequal split of housework is also a massive problem. Men need to do more at home, but many couples do the maths and look at who earns the most and make a decision around priorities accordingly.

I work in global executive search and am delighted to report that I see a shift in male candidates. They are asking more questions about work life balance and travel commitments. They are willing to state up front that they are “family men” and are looking for organisations that respect those values. The shift is subtle, but it is there. Times they are a changing. I loved this infographic from “Inspiring Dads.”  If Dad’s can participate more equally in child care without fear of any career penalty it frees their partners to pursue a fuller professional life.

It’s a win/win.


3Plus offers specialist services in Executive Search and Diversity Recruitment. Find out more HERE.

Dorothy Dalton Administrator
Dorothy Dalton is CEO of 3Plus International. A specialist in diversity and bias conscious executive search, she supports organizations to achieve business success via gender balance, diversity and inclusion. She is CIPD qualified, and a certified coach and trainer including digital learning.
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