Today’s corporate culture of always being on and available has led to higher levels of work-life conflict where men are struggling to balance their new roles in society, according to a study by Deloitte’s Doblin human-centred design and human capital consulting practices.

According to the study, men are now facing backlash when stepping outside traditional masculine gender norms, such as taking on new roles outside the office with their families and in their communities. At the same time, women have entered the workforce in droves.

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However, the transition is key to making progress on gender equality, the study noted. Men are reluctant to shed, what the study called, the financial provider role. “If men remain committed to being the primary financial provider, women end up disadvantaged since they must take on more caregiving and household roles, while men miss out on leading fuller lives outside the workplace,” said the study. “The more men can take on caregiver and household roles outside of work, the more space is created in the workplace for women to succeed and close the gender equality gap.”

Carolyn Lawrence, co-author of the report and one of Deloitte Canada’s inclusion leaders, says the reason the organization looked at this is twofold. “I’ve been dedicating just about my entire career on achieving gender equality and mostly at the senior leadership levels, because it seems to be the most persistent level we don’t feel we’ve been able to crack yet. We’ve spent so much time trying to work on fixing the people or the policies to achieve gender equality. . . . We were trying to figure out how we approach this. What are the new perspectives? Can we look at changing the game and achieving that as opposed to continuing to try and chip away at it incrementally?”

The study asked men about their experiences at work and at home to see if it would help uncover anything else, says Lawrence. “No one had asked men these questions before and that was something they told us specifically in the interviews we had with them — no one had asked them how they want to show up.”

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The study further noted men face backlash when they don’t follow masculine gender stereotypes — when they show vulnerability, act nicer, display empathy, sadness or modesty and proclaim to be feminists. “Men who do this earn less, get promoted less often and, overall, receive worse performance reviews than women who engage in similar behaviour,” noted the study.

“Evidence shows when men take more paternity leave, women are more likely to stay employed full time, the wage gap decreases and more women earn senior leadership positions on boards.”

So how can business leaders create more space for all genders to succeed in the workplace? The study said it uncovered insights that show how today’s corporate culture “isn’t working for anyone, and that achieving gender equality is so much more complex than simply hiring more women.”

The study’s silver lining, according to Lawrence, was that “employees, both men and women, take cues from leaders as to what behaviour is acceptable. So as an example of that, when you see a male leader taking paternity leave, it signals this was an OK behaviour. And what we know based on a lot of research is that when men do take that time away from their work in order to participate in raising a family, it creates more space for women to advance.”

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