Last week I was honored to participate in a summit for Working Dads at the White House. This gathering was part of the planning process for a larger event being organized by the Obama Administration on Working Families taking place this summer. It was a dynamic and forward-thinking conversation about the need for government and business to rethink the role of fathers in our society.
The Upper West Side is a vibrant community – filled with many young families who grapple with the challenges of finding a good work and family balance. While fathers were traditionally thought of as just the breadwinner for the family, that dynamic has changed over the years. The workforce looks different in 2014 and more fathers are taking on the role of caregiver, while more moms seek to return to the workforce.
At this gathering, we heard from White House Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough, the Transportation Secretary, Labor Secretary, chair of the President’s Council on Economic Advisors and several business leaders. All the speakers noted how hard it is for dads to balance work and family. With more dads seeking to be active in childcare and at home, and more moms seeking to return to the work force, there is a clear need to recognize that the old dynamics and stereotypes are outdated. Most dads (and moms), do not have access to paid leave and flexible workplaces that would better help them manage the growing work-family conflict that exists today. Many dads today do not even receive any leave for the birth of a child.
As the father of a one-year-old, I personally understand the true desire to be home more regularly with my son and to be more helpful so that my wife can work on her own career as well.
The Obama Administration deserves great credit for highlighting this very real challenge. We all need to do our part to continue to have a conversation about working dads and what public policies are needed to support working families. Companies that have policies in place to provide greater workplace flexibility often see more productivity, greater success recruiting talent, lower turnover and increased profits in the long run.
Policies that support working families are policies that support the bottom line for businesses. As was stated at the White House, “It’s time for 21st –century policies that work for 21st-century families.”
Ken Biberaj is executive VP of the Ansonia Independent Democrats
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