Under the Equality Act 2010, the Gender Equality Duty places a legal responsibility upon public bodies across Scotland to identify specific gender equality issues and areas for action and, more broadly, to actively promote gender equality. This provides a key opportunity to challenge assumptions and ways of working which (often inadvertently) have perpetuated gender stereotyping and sexual discrimination.
Until recently, gender equality initiatives have (with good reason) tended to focus on promoting the needs and interests of women. Despite gender equality advances for women in the workplace, childcare remains an area characterised by gender stereotypes and segregation. The evidence shows that men can and do take on positive caring roles, both as professionals and as father figures. However in practice, women still tend to take the lead responsibility in caring for children. Importantly, it is often assumed, by public service providers as well as wider society, that they will do so.
Children’s services have historically tended to deal predominantly with children’s mothers, particularly during the early years of a child’s life. This has left some fathers feeling marginalised, under-valued or even excluded and has (albeit unintentionally) served to further discourage fathers’ active engagement in their children’s care and upbringing. Yet, it is well established that fathers (whether resident or non-resident, biological or de facto, good or bad) are profoundly important to the development, well-being and life chances of their children.
‘Making Gender Equality Real’ project
This Children in Scotland project is funded by the Scottish Government, 2008-2012. The project promotes the value and importance of involving fathers positively in their children’s lives. Promoting the role of fathers and men as carers, and challenging associated stereotypes of masculine roles, is increasingly recognised as central to achieving equality for women and men. Engaging with fathers as well as mothers is likely to become a key requirement of the public sector Gender Equality Duty. This project will collate and share information and examples of good practice, in order to support and further the equalities agenda.