A recent study published in the American Sociological Review found that most young adults seek egalitarian relationships, especially when egalitarianism is perceived as achievable in their workplace environments. In fact, without flexible workplace policies, men and women were more likely to revert to traditional gender roles.
These findings listed in this article are significant in showing the impact of policies on attitudes. Similarly, some scholars have called for mandatory (as opposed to optional or nonexistent) paternity leave in order to alter attitudes about men's parenting responsibilities, and also avoid indirectly punishing women for taking maternity leave. Another option would be to change the title of the policy to family leave, which would further remove any gendering tendencies.
Societal change is a process, but as this study shows, policies can help shift prominent attitudes.
But this research also suggests that as workplace policies change, people's attitudes toward gender roles will shift as well, says Kathleen Gerson, a sociologist at New York University who wasn't involved in the study. "Even what we think we want is going to be based on what kinds of options our environment offers us," Gerson says. "Right now, it's very hard in many cases for Americans to even imagine what life would be like if they could depend on the kinds of family and work support that is available in some other countries."