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Father's Day

This doctor is lending her expertise to Dove Men+Care as it explores fatherhood in communities of color

Wizdom Powell is part of the skin care line’s newest campaign that champions fatherhood and paternity leave

Wizdom Powell experienced the loss of a paternal figure as a child. She does not go into much detail, but the loss prompted her to work in the field of health outcomes of men and boys.

“From that personal experience ignited a more scientific one that really aligned one with the data that tells us that men lived shorter lives than women on average, and that when we look at the data for boys and men of color, those disparities are even more stark and contrasting,” she said.

So when Dove Men+Care expanded its role in “helping men care” in its newest campaign championing paternity and overall health for men, Powell was one of four partners on board to help the skin care line carry out its mission. The male health and masculinity expert is helping the company tackle stereotypes and the cultural impact of modern fatherhood in communities of color.

“I come to this work as a mother, as a sister, as a daughter, as a granddaughter who’s really interested in helping families and communities hold on to the men and boys that they love and care about and not lose them prematurely to health disadvantage,” Powell said.

Powell, a tenured professor and Founder of The Evidencewatch Collective serves on and leads several national advisory councils on fatherhood and the health disparities in boys and men, and has advanced the masculinity conversation among racial/ethnic minority males. In recognition of her public service to boys and men, she received the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Professional Service Award.

“I primarily am a psychologist and populations health researcher by training,” Powell said. “My work has focused a lot on mental health outcomes. But also on the social determinants of health, like, for example, racial profiling and its impact on mental health. I look at those, and I also look at the way in which men use and access services and resources, and also take advantage of policy opportunities like paid paternity leave that Dove Men+Care is working to advance.”

The goal of Dove Men+Care’s campaign to encourage men to take paternity leave if offered and to advocate for better paternity leave worldwide as part of comprehensive, paid family leave.

It wants “every expecting father” to have “the chance to care for the people that matter most to him.”

The campaign also includes a new film, Dear Future Dads, where the company spoke to real dads from around the world and asked them what advice they would give to future dads, with a focus on how important it is to take the time to care from the start by taking paternity leave.

With Powell’s help, the campaign challenges toxic masculinity and stereotypes and addresses the cultural impact of modern fatherhood.

Dove Men+Care also partnered with Promundo to carry out a pioneering study, surveying more than 1,700 men and women ages 25-45 in the United States on what keeps fathers from taking parental leave and being the fully involved caregivers they want to be.

Key findings reveal that:

  • 73 percent of U.S. dads agree there is little workplace support for fathers.
  • 87 percent of fathers report being more satisfied with their lives (including in their sex lives, according to 77 percent of them) when they can be the caregivers they want to be.
  • 69 percent of dads are willing to change jobs if necessary to be very involved in the early weeks/months of caring for a newly born or adopted child.
  • 76 percent of fathers (compared with 55 percent of mothers) say they would have to work at least a little during any parental leave.

“What I appreciate about this finding is that it’s really important because I think oftentimes we don’t hear from fathers about their living experience and the ways in which they access workplace support and support from other sources,” Powell said. “I think those findings really are very consistent with what we know about men’s general health-seeking patterns. We know, for example, that men are less likely on average to seek help for mental and physical health problems for themselves. They just don’t feel they have enough social permission to take advantage of the resources of support that are available to them. I think in many ways, obtaining paid paternity leave benefits, using them or accessing them, is a health-seeking behavior. It’s a way of saying, ‘Hey, I actually need the time off to care for my family.’ And that can be really challenging for men.”

Powell said she is excited to continue the partnership with Dove.

“In my work, I work to challenge stereotypes and stigmas around men and boys, in particular men and boys of color,” she said. “This campaign is doing that in a really profound and, I think, innovative way. Those are the kinds of partnerships that we need if we’re going to move the needle on the large disparities that I talk about, but even just to move the needle on paid paternity leave uptake for fathers.”

In communities of color, Powell says, the experience of men and boys has received very little attention and very little dialogue relative to other population groups.

“Most of those narratives focus on the so-called responsible fatherhood approach,” Powell said. “Which, if you think about it, if you start a conversation with fathers with a message to them to be more responsible, then the underlying assumption is that they’re not. And we know that that doesn’t really jibe well with the data. In fact, what we know is that when we look at African-American fathers, for example, who don’t reside in the homes with their children. They are, in fact, more engaged than fathers from other groups, particularly non-Hispanic white groups, on average.”

For Powell, supporting fathers and their desire to be more caring, enact more caring roles, directly benefits children, mothers, families and communities and is important.

“I think that’s the point that everyone should walk away from initiatives like the Dove Men+Care campaign is driving with knowing,” she said. “That this is about all of us. When we do this work, that we actually create a kinder, gentler world where we all can thrive. I think that’s really important.”

A life based on her spirituality keeps her grounded.

“It helps me realize I’m just playing a really small role in a sea of roles that are necessary to move the needle. It [her work] is not about me. It’s about something broader. Also, I realize that the role I’m playing is really to just to open the door, or hold the door, in another instance but not really solve all the problems.”

Kelley Evans is a digital producer at Andscape. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic Southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.