Being a woman in the automotive industry is something that has been getting more publicity in recent years which was and still is much needed. One thing I have yet to hear about is parenting.

As a mother of two small children, the demands of a parent have grown, especially due to COVID-19. What about dads? Parenting is almost a taboo topic in the workforce, but this year, with the pandemic and virtual learning, it’s impossible to keep the two separated. We have greater responsibilities outside our job that we have to deal with — dads included.

Majority of us were not set up to work through a pandemic. Many dads I have spoken to in the industry had a choice to make: 1.) Earn an income, or 2.) Care for their children. While other industries are able to give their employees the option to work from home, advisors, technicians and managers have no choice but to show up every day.

Unfortunately, many shops haven’t offered options for flexible work hours, shifts, etc. So, their employees have not only needed to figure out how to work through a pandemic, but also how to make sure their kids are set up to be successful with online learning. This isn’t a realistic expectation for any working parent.

Parenting Stigmas in the Workforce

The pandemic has shone light on my own experiences in the workplace and brought forward some stigmas our society has created for both mothers and fathers. Mothers are expected to be less sensitive and more career-driven if they ever want to grow or move up. Mentioning my two children will only show my distractions from work or that I may be incapable for the job.

Fathers have their own stigmas that they and their families have to deal with, and I have seen many of these firsthand:

  1. Caring for Sick Children — It’s seems to be an expectation that when a child is sick, the mother will take after him/her. What if the mom isn’t available? What if dad is a single parent? What happens when dad leaves work early to pick up sick kids? I’m sure you see an eye roll. Maybe even they ask, “Where is your wife?” That isn’t okay. Fathers should not be scrutinized for leaving work to take care of their sick children.
  2. Paternity Leave — Why do men need time off for a baby… Especially in our industry?! Most workplaces allow a few days off, majority unpaid. Heaven forbid if there are any complications. Men are forced to juggle working, spending little time with their child for bonding, and all while getting very little sleep. Do you remember babies eat every 2-3 hours? Men do need time off or at least the flexibility without the guilt to take time off. FMLA for larger companies is rarely used by men not only because the time is unpaid, also because of the stereotype that comes with using it.
  3. Homeschool/Childcare — No one planned 2020. This year, mental health has never been worse, and parents are overwhelmed with life. The pandemic has put stress on everyone in this country, but, as a parent, you also now have the stress of your children’s education and caring for their daily needs. Thankfully, I can juggle both as I am able to work remotely. However, having spoken to technicians dealing with this daily, the industry hasn’t been so kind. Technicians (mainly men) haven’t had the option to assist with their families while maintaining their employment status. This all feeds into why technicians leave the industry. This industry hasn’t kept up with the demands of the employees, and they will find work elsewhere. I understand 50 years ago, many families had a stay-at-home mom who could handle education. In 2020, less than 20% of families have a stay-at-home parent vs. in the 1960s it was about 40-50% (Pew Research Center).

The Automotive Industry Needs to Evolve

A dads role in 2020 has not only grown within the family, but has also transformed like many of our roles. Within the automotive industry, we have to adjust our current policies to evolve with the expectations of younger generations. Millennials and Generation Z need work-life balance, and have a need to fulfill their duties at home as the majority of those roles are split. Simple things like flexible schedules and paid time off as well as culture can make the world of difference. This will help us retain the technicians in our industry as well as attracts others to it.

What change will you implement in your shop to help?