Kiwi Dads photographic exhibition showcases the need for equal access to parental leave

Kiwi Dads, a new public photographic exhibition and campaign to promote equal access to paid parental leave, was launched on September 5 at Westfield Newmarket in Auckland.

Inspired by the iconic Swedish Dads photographic exhibition, Kiwi Dads is a local campaign focussed on normalising fatherhood in the workplace and encouraging conversations between workplaces, men and their families to break down outdated gender stereotypes.

The exhibition, created by Global Women in partnership with Parents at Work and the Embassy of Sweden, features 13 fathers from across New Zealand at home with their children. The Kiwi Dads photos are by Auckland-based photographer, Sarah Weber.

Some fathers took extended parental leave while their partner returned to work, others work flexibly to accommodate their children’s schedules, sick days and their partner’s travel needs, and some left their jobs to develop stronger bonds with their children.

The award-winning Swedish Dads images will be exhibited alongside the Kiwi Dads photographs—with New Zealand being the last stop on the Swedish Dads’ 63-country tour.

Approximately 300 New Zealand men (around 1%) took paid parental leave in 2017 versus more than 30,000 women. Yet research shows that men—and Millennial men particularly—want the option of having time at home with their children.

The exhibition was opened at an event on September 4 hosted by Deloitte featuring the Minister for Women, Julie Anne Genter, and other employers including Scentre Group, QBE, ANZ, HSBC, Lion and Spotify that are encouraging more men to enjoy the benefits of parental leave.

Minister Genter’s partner Peter Nunns features in the exhibition; Mr. Nunns took seven months’ leave to be at home with their son Joaquin when Minister Genter returned to her ministerial duties.

Global Women CEO Siobhan McKenna says that advancing diversity, inclusion and equality is fundamental to improving the quality of life for us all.

“When dads are more equal in the home, mums can be more equal at work, and children benefit from having quality time with both parents,” says Siobhan. “Right now, in New Zealand, too many men are prevented from spending this precious time at home with their kids because of financial and cultural barriers.”

The Kiwi Dads campaign calls for companies to make access to parental leave equally available to men and women, whether that is access to fully-paid time off, a top-up of the government contribution for new parents, or equally flexible schedules to allow for normal parenting responsibilities such as school pick-ups and caring for sick children.

Parents at Work CEO Emma Walsh said, “The Kiwi Dads photographs send a powerful visual message to fathers to normalise men taking parental leave. By normalising men sharing the care we will help remove the stigma and anxiety for employees who take time out of work, knowing they are supported by their community and their organisation. It takes the village to change the status quo on this.”

Scentre Group CEO Peter Allen – one of the exhibition’s sponsors who will host the public exhibition at its latest development, Westfield Newmarket, said: “We are really proud to have one of our Scentre Group dads featured in the exhibition. We are committed to parental leave equality and encourage men and women in our organisation to consider their caring role as a part of their career, not a break in their career. By hosting this exhibition at our latest living centre, Westfield Newmarket, we are keen to encourage our customers to engage and connect with this conversation and encourage broader community discussion on parental leave equality.”

Insurer QBE, a sponsor of the Kiwi Dads event, recently updated its parental leave policies in New Zealand to offer fully equal paid parental leave: 12 weeks’ of fully paid leave regardless of who is designated the “primary caregiver” by the government.

Sharing parental leave helps to close the gender pay gap: instead of imposing a “motherhood penalty” of a 12.5% difference in wages, men sharing care allows women to return to work faster and to accept promotions or new roles.

Men who take extended parental leave are more likely to remain as equal carers, working flexibly and sharing more of the domestic household and childcare duties. And, a Swedish study found a mother’s future earnings rose 7% on average for each month of parental leave her husband took.

Siobhan McKenna commented “To end the gender pay gap requires a few things to happen in concert: supportive practices for mothers, especially in the baby’s first months; equal access to parental leave for both parents; and, measurement of remuneration to avoid unintended salary gaps.”

Kiwi Dads is a collaboration between Global Women, Parents at Work, the Embassy of Sweden, and the Swedish Institute. Supporting Partners of the Kiwi Dads event and exhibition include ANZ, Deloitte, HSBC, Lion, QBE, Scentre Group and Spotify.

 

The Kiwi Dads exhibition is on display at Westfield Newmarket from 5th to 15th September 2019.

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