Can paid paternity leave help reduce sexist attitudes towards gender roles?

New evidence shows that getting paid paternity leave for fathers can decrease gender biases and promote less stereotypical gender roles.
By: | May 15, 2023

Extending paid paternity leave can lead to a reduction in sexist attitudes and promote gender equality, according to a new study from Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, US.  

The study, titled Fathers’ Leave Reduces Sexist Attitudes was published in American Political Science Review, studied the impact of a new parental leave policy in Estonia that extended fathers’ leave threefold for children born on or after July 1, 2020. Conducting two surveys in Estonia before and after the implementation of the leave policy, the results of the first study showed that new and expecting parents were significantly more likely to express support for gender equality in the social and economic spheres than those who had children before the policy took effect. After the reform, results from the survey showed that parents who were directly affected by the policy expressed positive shifts in gender equality views.

READ: From diapers to desk: Supporting fatherhood in the workplace

Margit Tavits, Dr William Taussig Professor in Arts and Sciences, Washington University, and first author of the study, said, “Gender norms and biases are hard to overcome because they are so deeply ingrained in our society. Extending caregiver leave for fathers, however, has the power to decrease gender biases because it disrupts traditional gender roles and promotes less stereotypical ones.”

“Our results show that direct exposure to progressive social policy can weaken sexist attitudes, providing governments with a practical and effective tool to reduce harmful biases.”