Business In Society
Facebook Twitter LinkedIn

Business in Society Blog

As fathers, are Joe Biden and Paul Ryan work/balance groundbreakers?

“It’s all about family.”

That heart warming epigram is proudly displayed in many U.S. households.

And now there is reason to wonder if a fundamental change is slowly evolving in the very essence of “family”, that traditional bedrock of society. No small part of that cultural evolution is related to work/balance for both fathers and mothers.

This evolution, long in development, got a boost in the last few days when Vice President Joe Biden, in withdrawing as a candidate for the presidency, and Paul Ryan, laying out conditions for accepting the role of Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, were widely seen as quite sincere in citing their family considerations.

Biden: “I couldn’t do this if the family wasn’t ready.”

Ryan: ” I cannot and will not give up my family time.”

Realistically, even such headline-making sentiments may not represent a tipping point for the complexity of needed social change in workplace and home gender roles. Yet it’s quite telling that  leaders of the women’s empowerment movement were impressed with those statements.

Anne Marie Slaughter, president of the New America think tank and author of “Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family”, suggested that men who undertake greater family responsibilities are “just as much groundbreakers as we were.” She also said that a younger generation of men might do more of that (see earlier Business in Society interview with Ms. Slaughter)               

Also in Claire Cain Miller’s Times report, Sheryl Sandberg, author of “Lean In”, remarked, “..having leaders who weigh responsibilities as fathers as much as their responsibilities to their jobs shows us all what it possible.”

The question now is whether this new support and media attention will, in a reasonable timeframe, generate the kind of substantive legislative changes that all major social movements require.