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Flexible working helps women, but derails men’s careers



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One of the well-known ways in which companies try to retain women in the workforce is to allow them to work flexibly, especially so in the case of mothers who need to spend more time caring for their children.

Though this might seem like a step towards gender parity in the workplace, a closer look shows that men aren’t granted the same amount of flexibility.

A joint research from Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women polling 1,030 employees in Australia found that while men are increasingly demanding access to flexible working models for similar reasons to women, these requests are often being denied by employers.

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This finding was backed by the Australian Human Rights Commission, which found that 27% of fathers and partners have reported experiencing discrimination related to parental leave and return to work, despite taking very short periods of leave.

It also found that men were also twice as likely as women to have their request to work flexibly rejected.

“A manager told one respondent seeking flexible arrangements that ‘part-time is traditionally only something we make work for women’. To break the stigma and negative sentiment associated with men working flexibly, organisations need to demonstrate commitment, from the CEO level down, to making flexible working the norm for both genders,” the report wrote.

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Interestingly, the research noted  while women working flexibly are equally or more serious and committed to reaching their full career potential than those who work traditional hours, the same cannot be said for men.

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In fact, confidence and commitment levels were found to be lower for men who work flexibly than those who don’t. The report pointed out that this could potentially be a result of the perception challenges they face when taking up a flexible working model.

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Most would assume that employees who work flexibly would become greater advocates of the company. While that might be true for female employees, the opposite trend is seen in male employees.

The research found that women who use flexible working models give their organisations higher Net Promoter Scores (the higher the score, the greater the advocacy levels) than those who don’t (8 vs -14). On the other hand, men who work flexibility gave their organisations lower scores than those who don’t (4 vs. 26).

“This could be an indicator that, with men being behind women in their rate of uptake of flexible working, they are suffering the stigmas and biases that women experienced more severely in the early days of their use of flexible working,” the report added.

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Infographs by Bain & Company and Chief Executive Women. Lead image: Shutterstock

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