Girls star Allison Williams is starting to hold the expectant dads she knows to task – for a very important reason…
If you’re in your thirties and your friends are starting to have babies, you might start to notice a few disquieting trends among the straight couples that you know.
The guy might be praised for changing nappies, for example. Or the pregnant woman will be asked how she’s going to cope, juggling work and parenthood.
Typically, the dad in the equation won’t be asked this question, because he’s not one of the minuscule 1% of people in the UK who take advantage of shared parental leave.
That, along with years of gender conditioning, means parenthood doesn’t fall squarely on his plate in the same way that it does his female partner’s.
Even now, in this day and age, it is expected that women will be the primary caregivers to children, and take the subsequent hit to their careers.
It’s a subtle but worrying disparity that Girls actor Allison Williams is beginning to call out.
In a new interview with The Sunday Times’ Style magazine, the 31-year-old jokes that her friends “have babies that are starting to infiltrate the barbecues”.
And Williams has an issue that she always brings up with the male partners of her pregnant friends at these barbecues. She looks them in the eye, and asks/demands that they take paternity leave.
“I’ll say, ‘You must take time off. For feminism, it’s very important that you take time off,’” Williams explains.
“Because male actors are never asked, ‘How do you do it all? When are you going to have a baby? Are you ready?’ People don’t assume it’s part of their decision matrix.”
If Williams’ approach seems confrontational, it’s also on-point.
The gender pay gap continues to be a major problem in the UK, and latest data shows that it’s actually growing in men’s favour at 45% of British firms. In the finance and insurance sector, the difference between men and women’s pay stands at a gaping 22.9%.
Data shows this gulf largely opens up around the point at which women start having children. Despite efforts to even the playing field, mums still routinely get hit by the “baby tax” when they take up maternity leave.
Not only are they overwhelmingly more likely to take the leave compared to dads, doing so means they may be unfairly dismissed or overlooked for senior positions. They may also be forced to accept a pay cut or resign because of a lack of flexible working options.
All of which means Williams is absolutely right to challenge the expectant dads that she knows, in an effort to normalise shared parental leave. What’s more, we should all be doing the same.