Welcome to Women in Work, a four-part Bold Thinking series examining the unique role of women in the workplace. The series will bring together the constantly evolving role of women in the workplace and the unique perspectives of our staff.
This series was inspired by the aftermath of International Women’s Day (March 8), and how our laser focus on equality slips away in favour of the next clicktivism-driven calendar day. It’s easy to get swept up in activism when it’s confined to a single day – packaged up neatly between Valentine’s Day and Earth Day – but most issues require more dedication and discipline to be meaningfully tackled.
Women in Canada – and the world – have made great strides over the last few decades, cracking the glass ceiling with more female leadership and entrepreneurship than ever before. NATIONAL’s Calgary office invites you to follow the series, released weekly on the NATIONAL Bold Thinking blog. Stop, look and listen to the contributions (big and small) that women make every day, and take the opportunity to acknowledge the work that still needs to be done.
We’re kicking off this series with an unconventional look at women and work – with paternity leave. In the past decade, traditional parental leaves have become more flexible, and allowed parents to reimagine a task that is typically reserved for new mothers. Stephen Delisle, a member of the Calgary studio team – and new, first-time father – is one of NATIONAL’s first staff members to take a paternity leave.
We chatted with him about the unique circumstances that come with paternity leave, and the new perspectives he’s gained since returning to work.
Stephen, did you gain a new perspective on parenting when you took paternity leave?
Yes, I did. While I knew it would be hard, I really wasn’t expecting the 24/7 nature of being a full-time parent.
My wife is an optometrist and took maternity leave when our son was born, and then I supplemented it with a paternity leave. It definitely gave me a new perspective on how she was able to successfully balance a demanding career and being a parent.
When I began my parental leave, I was hopeful that there would have been more time for video games, but that was soon replaced with trying to get a quick nap in.
Did you experience any backlash or skepticism when you decided to take paternity leave? If so, was it because you were doing something that is typically expected of a mother and not a father?
No backlash. If anything, I wasn’t quite prepared for the workload of being a full-time father. What seemed like an extended break at first was actually really hard work. Fortunately, everybody in the office and in my personal life was very supportive of my leave.
Whether or not Stephen’s decision to take paternity leave reflects a broader change across an entire demographic, it’s unique in that his leave represents the changing attitudes of Canadian employers around traditional gender roles and how they mix with contemporary business realities. And, on a smaller scale, the personal shift in responsibilities that’s unfolding across Canadian families from coast to coast.
Putting himself in his wife’s shoes gave Stephen a new perspective on the work that comes with raising a child, and a new understanding of how these responsibilities are often assigned arbitrarily, based solely on gender. As more and more men choose to take paternity leave, we will hopefully begin to see a better understanding of and response to this unspoken, gender-based expectation.