Not in the print edition, but online, the Prospect has added a response by Linda Hirshman. While she is, as usual, gratuitously obnoxious toward anyone she disagrees with, she does make a point that I think is on target:
"even if by some miracle male employers could be
persuaded to enact the reforms discussed, without a real change in
women’s attitudes about the family most of the effect would be to make
it easier for women to continue to bear their excessive share of an
unjust household. And allow the women to think they chose it!"
In their discussion of a recent conference on Rethinking Gender Egalitarianism, Laura at 11d and Harry at Crooked Timber responded to a similar point made at the conference — that things like paid parental leave are an obstacle to gender egalitarianism, because they are disproportionately taken by mothers rather than fathers. Laura and Harry argue that parenting is not a "shit job" (as Hirshman clearly believes), but rather a source of great fulfillment for many people and that if barriers are removed, men will voluntarily take on more domestic responsibilities and joys.
I don’t think parenting is a shit job, or one that makes your brain rot. But I also think that it’s almost certainly true that absent a massive societal shift or highly prescriptive government policy, family friendly policies probably would increase the gender gap. Because, as Rhona Mahoney explains, every choice you make changes the hand that you have when you make the next set of decisions. And unless we get to the point that working fewer hours or taking time off from work has zero career cost (which seems unlikely anytime soon), it’s always going to make sense for the person who has already stepped off the fast track to be the one to accommodate the other’s career. And because of both biology (pregnancy and breastfeeding) and gender ideology, the one taking that first step off is far more likely to be a woman.
Mahoney also makes the interesting suggestion that this is a tipping point phenomenon; e.g that if SAHDs were more common, more men would make that choice. And on that note, I have to point out the Colbert report piece on SAHDs. (And a look behind the scenes.)