This Sunday is International Men’s Day. IMD is about "improving gender relations, promoting gender equality, and highlighting positive male role models… for men to celebrate their achievements and contributions – in particular their contributions to community, family, marriage, and childcare."
At the risk of incurring the wrath of many, men get a lot of bad press these days – particularly if you happen to be a middle-aged white man. At least being ginger puts me in an oppressed minority. As a result, there is plenty of dissent about even having a day set aside for men, because right now, every day is set aside for men.
But setting aside a day for men does not marginalise the issues facing women. I’m a fully paid up feminist and couldn’t be further from a male activist. I have two female business partners who are phenomenally inspirational to work with. I’m also a dad of two teenage girls, so I am extremely passionate about fighting for a world where they will not be discriminated against due to the gender in which they happened to be born.
While men may not have faced the same levels of oppression and unconscious bias as women, things aren’t necessarily all rosy. There are the shockingly high suicide rates for men (75% of suicides); only one in ten male sexual assaults are reported to the police; 71% of the time, sole custody of children is awarded to the mother; 95% of workplace deaths are men.
A year ago, I wouldn’t have claimed to be an expert in all things gender-related. However, in the last 12 months I’ve got a lot more educated on the matter, down to working with the Women’s Equality Party. Their simple mantra is "Equality is better for everyone". Why? For lots of reasons. Family life is better (more time together, more flexibility for both genders); children are happier (because of the previous point); gender balanced nations are richer; crime is lower; it’s better for the environment; there’s more harmony, more choice, and, most importantly, less pressure on society to fulfil artificial expectations.
And this is the nub of the matter. When my daughters were little, I hardly saw them. I convinced myself that this was okay, that I couldn’t afford to take time off. My wife was the nurturer, the organised one, the better cook. I was the breadwinner and needed to put in the hours. I couldn’t be seen to be rushing home to see the kids. That would be unmanly, and it could affect my career. People would talk. Looking back now, I regret it. I was an idiot. I missed some of the most important years of their lives which I can never get back. And conversely I think about what my wife Charlotte had to sacrifice to be the primary care giver.
I don’t want this to happen to others. At Now, we are committed to equality, and equality means providing the same opportunities to both genders. Until men are given a chance, both financially and emotionally, to dive into childcare, then the status quo will remain. That is why, this International Men’s Day, Now is launching a matching policy for dads to take leave when kids are born. They will be given the same amount of paid leave that we offer to women. And we will encourage them to take it, in a way that suits both them and their partners. Hopefully our client services director Dave Mannall, who has just had baby number two, will christen this policy.
Remco Graham is the executive creative director and partner at Now