Skip to content

Why championing paternity leave empowers men, women and business


Limited opportunities and social stigma can get in the way of fathers caring for their children. And new research conducted by Dove Men+Care and Promundo shows that paternity leave is vital for women's empowerment too.

Father holding baby closely

Fewer than half of the world’s countries offer paid paternity leave. When it is available, it is often less than three weeks – and sometimes just a few days. And even then, many men don't take their full allowance.

Our new research, conducted with gender equality organisation Promundo, shows that this is not what men want. 85% of fathers said that they would do anything to be more involved after their child was born. And the research, released in the State of the World’s Fathers report, also showed that better access to paternity leave could help liberate women's potential.

Tackling the unfair burden of domestic work and unlocking growth

Globally, women still do more than three times as much unpaid care and domestic work as men. Better access to paternity leave would help reduce that unfair burden.

And it would bring other benefits: across the seven middle- and upper-income countries surveyed in our research, over 65% of women said mothers would have better physical health if fathers took at least two weeks’ paternity leave. Over 72% said they would have better mental health.

If these benefits to individuals were not enough in themselves, there is also an economic impact. In Sweden, for example, it has been estimated that each additional month of parental leave taken by the father increases the mother’s earnings by 6.7% – a clear economic benefit.

So what's getting in the way?

Legally protected paternity leave isn't always available. But even where it is, gender norms and stereotypes can stop men taking on caring responsibilities.

Dove Men+Care’s report finds that significant proportions of men and women agree that “changing diapers, giving baths to children, and feeding children should be the mother’s responsibility”. Fathers in several countries reported they had experienced ridicule or been taunted when they started taking on more chores and work around the house.

In Japan, only 1% of fathers took the 52 weeks of paid leave offered. And fathers from Argentina to Brazil, Canada, the UK, and the US believe that they are less competent at caregiving than their female partners.

How can we bring about change?

We're determined to work both within and beyond our business to unlock the potential offered by better paternity leave and break down the barriers to men taking it.

Together, Dove Men+Care and Promundo are convening a Paternity Leave Global Task Force, which aims to identify and promote solutions that will result in improved access and uptake of paternity leave for all men. And we're partnering with Deloitte, Women Deliver and Promundo (PDF 6.35 MB) to work towards common goals in corporate policy and practice, workplace culture, and improving social expectations.

At the same time, we've launched our own Global Paternity Leave Standard for Unilever employees, which will give all fathers a minimum of three weeks' paid leave by the end of 2019.

A young girl sat on her fathers shoulders

Dove Men+Care: championing inclusive care

Our Dove Men+Care brand is taking a leading role, by championing an inclusive vision of care and challenging stereotypes of what it means to be a man and a father.

Ever since the brand launched in 2010, we’ve shown authentic portrayals of men and dads in our communications to help drive that culture shift. And we’ve continued to drive momentum behind unstereotyping fatherhood with campaigns including #DearFutureDads globally in 2018, #TaketheTime in Canada in 2019, and #PaternityLeavePledge in the US in 2019.

We're also calling on fathers as individuals to take action by – at a minimum – taking on an additional 50 minutes a day of unpaid care work. In the US, Dove Men+Care is also inviting current and expectant dads to take a pledge to accept their full paternity leave.

Fairer, happier, more productive communities: a campaign worth fighting

We know that achieving greater equality is not something one business can do on its own. We have begun collaborating with the many others who share our commitment to equality and are excited about keeping the momentum going, as we work to create a world free of stereotypes and with better opportunities for women. Our research and our campaign are open to all. We hope you will join us.

Related articles

Mother and son hugging

Five reasons why if you're in business, unpaid work matters

Unpaid work is what keeps families and communities running. Women shoulder the burden unfairly – and as our new publication with Oxfam shows, this matters to business. We're inviting our peers and partners to share our insights – and calling for global action.

Woman processing tea.

Knowledge is power: how data is unlocking women's potential

The gender gap is everywhere. How do we use data to find the best ways to close it – and unlock women's potential? We developed the Lean Data Gender Toolkit with our partner Acumen to help businesses, investors and others make gender-smart decisions. Here's what we've learnt.

Back to top