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Policy is not enough–the influence of the gendered workplace on fathers’ use of parental leave in Sweden

Journal article
Authors Linda Haas
Philip Hwang
Published in Community, Work and Family
Volume 22
Issue 1
Pages 58-76
ISSN 1366-8803
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 58-76
Language en
Links dx.doi.org/10.1080/13668803.2018.14...
Keywords companies, fathers, parental leave, Sweden
Subject categories Sociology, Psychology, Gender Studies

Abstract

Paid parental leave for fathers is a promising social policy tool for degendering the division of labor for childcare. Swedish fathers have had the right to paid parental leave since 1974, but they take only one-fourth of leave days parents take. There are strong cultural norms supporting involved fatherhood, so couples typically want to share leave more than they do. This article explores how workplaces can constrain Swedish fathers’ use of state leave policy, in ways that fathers can take for granted, a topic that has received less attention than individual or family-related obstacles. Based on interviews with 56 employees in five large private companies, we found that masculine workplace norms can make it difficult for fathers to choose to take much leave, while aspects of traditional workplace structure building on these norms can negatively affect fathers’ capabilities of taking much leave. Workplace culture and structure seemed to be based on assumptions that the ideal worker should prioritize work and has limited caregiving responsibilities, setting limits to fathers’ ability to share leave with mothers. Gender theorists suggest such assumptions persist because of male dominance at the workplace and the endurance of gendered assumptions about the roles of men and women. © 2018, © 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

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