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Ad land risks losing modern-day dads if agencies don't offer flexible working

It was encouraging to see the recent launch of #ShareBaby, a campaign by SheSays (the global creative network for women) aimed at promoting equal parental leave. While the UK government introduced shared parental leave and pay in 2015, uptake has been minimal with only 2% of eligible parents taking it up.

Alongside my role at Proximity London, I also run DaddiLife – an online platform for modern-day dads. Last year I heard a number of anecdotes from new fathers, stating their work/family balance was something that felt closer to 1920 rather than 2020. It prompted action, so earlier this year I surveyed just over 2,000 working dads aged 24-40, across every region of the UK. It lead to the production of a report called The Millennial Dad at Work.

Here's what I found:

The majority of millennial dads have a more active role at home than previous generations

87% of the millennial dads surveyed were either mostly or fully involved in day-to-day parenting duties. The vast majority of dads working full-time who are fully involved, also have a partner who is working full time (68%). This reflects the rise of dual-income households and the equalisation of parenting occurring at the same time.

Modern day dads want far more flexible ways of working

63% of all the fathers in this study have requested a form of flexibility at work since becoming a father. And 84% of all dads specifically working in advertising and marketing have requested a different form of flexibility at work since becoming a dad.

There's a significant gap between what is being requested and what is being granted

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Above is the national picture comparing what type of flexibility dads have requested, and what’s actually being granted.

It’s a pretty stark picture, and one that’s a mixed bag for dads in advertising and marketing too:

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Of all the dads in advertising and marketing we surveyed, 28% requested a change in hours. But with only 33% of those fathers being granted their request, it’s significantly less than the national majority. The 20% of dads who did get their request to work from home 1-2 days a week met the national average.

Additional findings were that 67% of dads who worked in advertising and marketing regularly experienced tension from colleagues, and 78% regularly from their employers.

As a national picture, 1/3 of all dads surveyed had left a job since becoming a father to find an optimal work-life balance. This figure rises to 44% of dads in advertising and marketing who have left or are actively looking since becoming a father.

And what of my own workplace?

It might be tempting to read this and see it as a veiled message to my own employer, but I have to be totally honest and say that Proximity London is one of those getting it right. The agency has strong role models of flexibility, brilliant flexible working for dads, and I have always had the confidence of my managers to raise any issue as and when needed. I have never felt anything but 100% supported.

But the picture for dads, and mums for that matter, in advertising and marketing is far from perfect.

It’s time for the creative industry to address the subject of modern-day parenting. Campaigns like #ShareBaby are a great way of bringing this subject to the fore but it’s up to each and everyone of us (working dads and mums) to keep the conversation going and keep striving for change. Dads are already voting with their feet, and the industry as a whole will suffer if we don’t embrace real change for modern day parents.

Han-Son Lee is digital planning director at Proximity London, he tweets @HanSonLee

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