Hopping Aboard The Daddy Track

Suddenly, achieving a work-life balance isn't just a women's issue

Peter Brand is a master of the work-family juggle. In the morning he dresses his three-year-old son and one-year-old daughter and drops them off at day care. At the end of the day, the 30-year-old senior manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers (IBM ) struggles to leave the office to get to his Rockwall (Tex.) home. Not at 8 or 9 p.m., the way the previous generation of partner-trackers did, but by 6 p.m. That gives Brand plenty of time to eat dinner with the kids, scrub them in the bath (or do dishes if his wife, Marcy, is handling that), and let Dylan, 3, choose a bedtime story and a prayer -- before Brand logs on to do more work. Marcy, an investor relations manager at Southwest Airlines Co. (LUV ), picks up the kids on her way home but, Brand says, "I want to be involved as much as I can in their lives."

A decade ago, the sight of Brand blowing through the exit doors before supper might have earned him the label of short-timer, at the least. But Brand and his spouse, on equally high-powered career tracks, want to be co-CEOs of their family. And in PwC, Brand has an employer that actually encourages the practice, offering new fathers three weeks' paid leave in the child's first year, formal flexibility policies, and strong messages from the top that it's O.K. for staffers to adapt their schedules to family needs. Says Brand: "I'm more motivated by the flexibility than the money."


In making family time as much a priority as his career, Brand is not alone. Working men born between 1965 and 1979 now spend about 3 1/2 hours a day with their kids -- the same amount as working women, according to a 2002 study by the Families & Work Institute. Among all working men studied, the average was about 2.7 hours in 2002, up from 1.8 hours in 1977. Moreover, 70% of men said they would take a pay cut to spend more time with their family and almost half would turn down a promotion if it meant less family time.

To be sure, making it to the top still requires sacrifices that often impinge on family time for both men and women. But a significant shift in mind-set and behavior, especially among younger men, is making itself felt throughout Corporate America. And companies, in order to lure the best and the brightest, are responding. Employers from Bristol-Myers-Squibb (BMY ) to the hard-driving culture of Texas Instruments Inc. (TXN ) have noted a marked increase in the number of men taking advantage of flexible work programs and child-care resources.

Executives at company-first General Electric Co. (GE ) also note the change in zeitgeist. The culture is even evolving at Wall Street investment banks like Credit Suisse First Boston (CSR ), where Brian Finn, the 44-year-old co-president, works from his Long Island (N.Y.) home every Friday so he can spend time with his three kids. At Ernst & Young LLP, close to 20% of the 2,300 people working on flexible schedules are men, up from 17% last year. The firm recently promoted two men to partner who were largely working from home.

More and more, the hard work of raising a family is a growing priority for men, especially Gen Xers whose upbringings were often marred by split parents, empty houses, and dads who seemed like distant relatives. These younger men are clocking their formative career years in the era of the disposable worker, when bosses push the eject button even on once-untouchable MBAs. That erosion of job security, along with the rise of free-agent workers, has led to lower levels of job loyalty and a sense that other things matter, like family. Moreover, given that Americans are marrying later in life, women have often built formidable careers by the time they wed and aren't as content to put their aspirations on hold once they have kids.


Other factors have simply made it easier for working parents to be with their families. Policies aimed at helping working women -- starting with the 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act -- have benefited men as well. Technology plays a crucial role, since it's now easy to stay connected from the sidelines of a soccer game or the bedside of a sick child, never mind with colleagues or customers in other parts of the world. While Paulette R. Gerkovich, senior director of research at Catalyst Inc., which tracks women in Corporate America, concedes that work-life balance is "still seen as a women's issue," she notes that studies show it's actually of equal importance to men.

The shift in attitudes among male workers is evident to veteran staffers such as Betty Purkey, who manages work/life strategies at Texas Instruments. Not only are men, who make up 70% of the chipmaker's employee base, clamoring for more flexibility, but they frequently crowd into the company's classes for new parents. "They really want to spend more time with their families," marvels Purkey, who finds a pronounced difference among younger employees. In a Bristol-Myers-Squibb survey of its staff, 20% of men and 14% of women reported working from home at least one day a week without a formal arrangement.

General Electric, known for grueling work schedules and nomadic executives, has noticed an increase -- albeit slight -- in men taking advantage of formal flexible work arrangements. Susan Peters, vice-president for executive development, knows of a number of executives who took parental leave or who duck out early to coach their child's soccer team. "These are things I would not have heard about five years ago," she says. But the biggest change is in a new unwillingness of people to relocate, which has increased significantly from a decade ago. A working spouse is a major reason, but many also cite reluctance to uproot children. "This is an evolution culturally, both inside and outside GE," she says.

Men's sharpened focus on family time isn't just a function of a two-career marriage. In survey after survey, men with stay-at-home wives insist they want to spend more time with their kids than men did a generation ago even if it means taking a cut in pay. Joe Colavito of Norcross, Ga., left a high-paying job as an executive recruiter last year to become director of external development at Wells Real Estate Funds Inc. Colavito, 40, barely saw his five children during the week when he was a recruiter. "I felt empty," says Colavito, "and I know my relationship with my kids suffered." He's still struggling to forge a closer bond with his 5-year-old daughter, who barely got to know him during his high-stress career.

Of course, the evolution only goes so far. Women still are handling the bulk of child care and are more likely to use an employer's formal flexible work schedules to meet family demands. Among older workers, men spend about an hour less time at home on work days than women. And for both men and women, using work-family policies can still bring penalties.

But the stigma is lessening, and the notion that men can openly embrace their family lives is clearly gaining more acceptance. As men increasingly opt for more family time, the playing field may become more equal for everyone.

By Diane Brady in New York

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