COVID-19, Economic Opportunity, Gender Justice

Paid Leave Must Be Gender Inclusive

by Ashley Crary Lidow, MPH on Oct 19, 2021

Recently, stigma around paid parental leave and men taking paid leave has come in to mainstream conversations after some individuals mocked Pete Buttigieg for taking time to care for his children. The unfortunate stigma around men taking parental leave continues to harm family health and workplace equality. Men most often forgo parental leave or take shorter periods of leave to avoid losing income and facing workplace stigma (1). Here are some reasons why paid leave must be gender inclusive. 

Parental involvement is crucial to child health  

For infants, paid leave provides time to establish a strong bond with parents and other caregivers during the first months of life, which is critical to cognitive, social and emotional development. Fathers who take longer leaves experience greater engagement in their children’s lives(2); greater paternal engagement has cognitive and developmental advantages for children(3). 

With paid leave, parents have time to attend well-child medical visits, to ensure that children receive necessary immunizations, and to identify and intervene in a variety of developmental delays(4). 

When men take paid leave it supports their partners and helps them remain in the workforce.  

Women are the primary and co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of families with children in South Carolina(5) and yet women are still more likely than men to stop working or to work part-time after the birth of a child. Paid paternity leave may increase women’s labor force participation by promoting men’s involvement at home and making it easier for women to return to the workforce. 

Households are more equal when fathers have paid leave.  

When new dads in households with a mother and father take paid leave, their families experience a more equitable division of parental responsibilities, including household chores and direct caregiving. Fathers who take paid family leave also say they are more comfortable as active, responsible co-parents(6). 

South Carolinians understand that paid leave is essential and a recent poll of likely voters found that 90% of South Carolinians support paid leave as a legislative priority(7). Everyone, regardless of gender, should be able to take time away from their jobs to care for their families without facing financial hardship or workplace discrimination. 

  1. Coltrane, S., Miller, E. C., DeHaan, T., & Stewart, L. (2013). Fathers and the Flexibility Stigma. Journal of Social Issues, 69(2), 279-302. doi: 10.1111/josi.12015; Dove Men+Care & Promundo. (2018, June). Helping Dads Care: New National Survey Confirms That Societal Expectations, Limited Paternity Leave and Insufficient Support Keep Fathers from Taking Leave. Retrieved 8 June 2021, from 
  2. Maria del Carmen Huerta et al., Fathers’ Leave, Fathers’ Involvement and Child Development Are They Related? Evidence from Four OECD Countries (2013). 
  3. Ann Sarkadi et al., Fathers’ Involvement and Children’s Developmental Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies, Acta Pediatrica 97: 153-158 (2008).
  4. Van Niel, Maureen Sayres MD; Bhatia, Richa MD; Riano, Nicholas S. MAS; de Faria, Ludmila MD; Catapano-Friedman, Lisa MD; Ravven, Simha MD; Weissman, Barbara MD; Nzodom, Carine MD; Alexander, Amy MD; Budde, Kristin MD, MPH; Mangurian, Christina MD, MAS The Impact of Paid Maternity Leave on the Mental and Physical Health of Mothers and Children: A Review of the Literature and Policy Implications, Harvard Review of Psychiatry: 3/4 2020 – Volume 28 – Issue 2 – p 113-126 
  5. Glynn, S. (2021, March 29). Breadwinning mothers are critical to families’ economic security. Retrieved April 14, 2021, from
  6. Rehel, E. M. (2014, February). When Dad Stays Home Too: Paternity Leave, Gender, and Parenting. Gender and Society, 28(1), 110- 132. doi: 10.1177/0891243213503900
  7. Change Research, Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, & National Women’s Law Center. (2020, January). Our Voice 2020: Poll of Women and LGBTQ Likely Voters in SC. Retrieved from:  

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