Posted: 18 Nov. 2022

"What is masculinity?" -Thoughts on gender roles and paternity leave upon International Men’s Day

Series : Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

*This is an English translation of the D-NNOVATION article issued by Deloitte Tohmatsu Group on November 18, 2022. If there is any discrepancy between the Japanese version and the English translation, the Japanese version shall prevail.


Should boys be strong?

It is said that humans start to learn and adapt gender roles around the age of 2 to 4 years old.

What if you see a boy who fell on the ground and someone complimenting, “So proud of you being a strong boy! You are not crying!” Did you find anything odd? Did you think it would reinforce the stereotypical gender role that “boys should not cry” or “boys should be strong”?

People have become more aware of diverse concept of genders, but the traditional idea of “men or female” is still strong, and gender norms or “masculinity and femininity” are deeply ingrained in our society. With regards to women empowerment initiatives, some men might argue, “women empowerment is reverse discrimination and unfair” or “men are also facing challenges”, but when you unpack those comments, it may be strongly influenced by the stereotypical gender roles such as “men should be strong” or “men should be the breadwinners”.

Can paternity leave system be the game changer?

Japan has had a long period of time where “men who work really hard” were the center of the economic world, while from October 2022, newly amended Act on Childcare Leave/Caregiver Leave enforced additional paternity leave. A little ago, men were not expected to take paternity leave, so this is a big change from traditional gender role. However, you can not say that all workplaces around Japan are ready for men to take paternity leave.

Research have shown that one of the challenges for men to take paternity leave is “not being able to take a leave”. According to the survey conducted by the Cabinet Office, many raised difficulties of taking a leave such as “too busy” or “not being a norm ” etc. Also, there has been another research by the Cabinet Office where 36.7% of men answered that “they feel against other male colleagues taking paternity leave” compared to 21.9% of women, which had 14.8% difference. This may be indicating that men themselves are internalizing the traditional gender role, “men should not be absent from work” (NO long paternity leave), so they do not feel comfortable for other male colleagues taking the paternity leave as well as themselves not wanting to take the leave.

To increase paternity leavers

According to the research by the Cabinet Office, it has been reported that work environment with two or more out of three categories: good systems, initiatives to promote it, and managers with good understanding, have higher rates of paternity leave. Also, considering from our grassroots activities at Deloitte Tohmatsu Group, in addition to understanding and support from colleagues and managers, role models at workplace play an important part. At Deloitte Tohmatsu Group, we have 73.7% of men taking paternity leave as of our latest fiscal year, and we are continuing to further empower. As part of our initiatives, there is a handbook with stories from our male members who have taken paternity leave. It includes stories and advice as well as the detailed processes and several scenarios upon taking the leaves, which is aimed to share experiences and knowledge and to solve any questions or concerns other members may have. We also have training sessions for managers and colleagues to learn about the amended act and events to raise awareness, as well as communication to promote paternity leave via various channels internally and externally.

Images posted on our social media account to empower paternity leave. Communications from business and organizations to illustrate fathers’ role models is important to remove societal bias that raising child is women’s job.

From diverse ways of living for men……

In Japan, it may be still a challenge for some people to take paternity leave, but remember the days when women were asked “why keep working after having a child”?  Society can and will change, by everyone becoming more aware and taking actions. Then, we can eventually achieve a society and organizations where “taking paternity leave is the norm” soon. With that being said, promoting paternity leave will bring a change to the traditional working style in Japan and fixed gender role, which is also diversifying choices people can make and the ways people live. In fact, having more paternity leave takers have reminded all of us about unconscious bias on workstyles we all have within our group. This has led to a new initiative to empower gender equality launched by volunteer male leaders who believe gender equality is not an issue for the minority, but for the majority as men, which has diversified the landscape of DEI practitioners and stakeholders.

November 19 is International Men’s Day. Deloitte Tohmatsu Group will further empower initiatives to tackle gender related challenges led by men to create a society where every and each one of us can thrive as who we are.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion initiatives at Deloitte Tohmatsu Group

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