Society

Study: Men Get Less Workplace Flexibility Than Women

| by Nik Bonopartis
Signage featuring male and female symbols.Signage featuring male and female symbols.

Men traditionally enjoy advantages they have over women in the workplace: they earn more on average for the same jobs, they're typically seen as more competent and they get promoted more often than their female counterparts.

But there's at least one realm where men are disadvantaged compared to women: work flexibility. That's according to a new study released by business consulting firm Bain and Company on Feb. 3 called "Flexibility For All: Barriers to flexibility still stand in the way of gender parity."

The study, which looked at Australian firms, said fewer than 50 percent of employers have workplace flexibility policies, "and even when such policies exist, there are barriers to effective utilization."

"By actively encouraging flexible arrangements and ensuring they are widely used, organizations stand to gain significant employee advocacy," said Melanie Sanders, co-author of the study. "However, there are barriers still in the way of men accessing flexible work which suggest that they are suffering the stigmas and biases that women experienced more severely in the early days of their use of flexible working."

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The study had 1,030 respondents. Fifty-eight percent of respondents were female, while 42 percent were male. Among the men, 60 percent said they would like flexible hours, but their supervisors won't entertain the notion.

One man explained to researchers that he was told "part-time is traditionally only something we make work for women" when he asked about scaling back his hours, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"My boss told me I wouldn't be able to get promoted working part-time," another man who participated in the survey said.

Among men who were granted flexible work hours, or had employers who were amenable to the idea, the survey found that they could face negative consequences. Those men could be discriminated against, suffer from unwarranted negative evaluations and could be passed up for promotions, according to Jesse Olsen of the University of Melbourne's Centre for Workplace Leadership.

The study's authors said the problem is two-fold: Human resources policies are still rooted in gender stereotypes, and corporations haven't caught up with the attitudes and expectations of millennials, who are more likely to ask for flexible work hours.

The former is ingrained into society, Olsen said.

"In our society we have these traditional views about roles where a woman is a caretaker and much more likely to be a homemaker...and where a man is more likely to be a breadwinner and go to work full-time," Olsen told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. "That's kind of ingrained in us from a long time ago and we're trying to change that, but it's very hard to change assumptions and values and those things can impact us subconsciously."

Sources: Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Bain and Company / Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

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