February 3, 2016
The growing complexities of flexible working and changing gender roles are laid bare yet again in a new report published in Australia by management consultancy Bain & Company and advocate group Chief Executive Women. The report, The Power of Flexibilty, claims that male workers pay a penalty in their careers when they opt for flexible working because they enjoy less support and are more harshly judged than their female counterparts. Many are regarded as anomalies, caught between the expectation that men spend longer hours at work on the one hand, while striving to create a more balanced life, often in a household in which a woman is increasingly likely to be the main breadwinner. The authors of the report claim that men are currently experiencing the same sort of stigmas and biases faced by women in the early days of flexible working, even though both sexes continue to face barriers when opting for flexible work.
The report also found that women who adopt flexible working arrangements are more likely to move subsequently into senior leadership roles, but men who do the same thing are more likely to find their careers damaged by their choice. The report suggests that awareness of this stigma is hampering the uptake of flexible working in Australia, especially for men. According to the study, around 38 per cent of women and 28 per cent of men surveyed said they used flexible work arrangements. It sets out an action plan to address the issue, and calls on employers to judge male employees on the same basis as women.
The report, based on a survey of 1030 employees of businesses with more than 100 staff), claims that more companies should offer and encourage flexible working.
According to one of the report’s authors Meredith Hellicar: “Flexible work needs to be the new normal. It is not just about having flexible work policies. The real barrier to working flexibly is a cultural one. We speculate men are 10 to 15 years behind in adopting flexible working.”