Women continue to make only 70 or 80 cents for every $1 men earn, even when controlling for factors such as hours worked and other career choices. Common cultural assumptions hold that women are more committed to work-life balance than men and are more likely to adjust their work schedules and take time off to raise their children, as needed. A new study, though, has found that men are more likely to receive flexible work arrangement requests to spend time with family than women, and that men who make flex time requests for the benefit of their families are perceived more favorably than women who do the same.
Gender Inequality in Approving Flexible Work Requests
The study evaluated 646 requests for flexible work arrangements, such as working from home two days each week or arriving and leaving early three days each week. Study participants were asked to read a transcript in which an employee made a flexible work request and determine whether they would accept or deny the request. Researchers varied the gender of the person making the request as well as the nature of the request—whether the request was related to childcare or not.
Of the flexible work requests made with childcare in mind, 70% of study participants claimed they would grant the requests made by men, but only 57% of requests by women were likely to be approved. The difference can’t be explained by difference in communication style or the reason for the request, since researchers provided identical transcripts. The only difference between the requests was the gender of the person making the request.
Men weren’t just more likely to have their requests approved; they were also perceived more favorably for asking. Twenty-four percent of participants viewed the men who made requests for flex time to care for children as “extremely likable,” compared to only 3% for women. Similarly, 15% of study participants saw women who requested flex time as “not very” or “not at all” committed to their jobs, compared to nearly 3% for men.
The data shed light on how everyday choices that don’t harm men can undermine women. Work-life balance is an ongoing challenge for both men and women, but workplace culture may make achieving such balance more difficult for women.
Interestingly, those requests that were made for non-childcare reasons were less likely to be approved than those requests based on childcare needs. Just over 40% of study participants said they would grant the childless employee’s request for a flexible work schedule, compared with nearly 64% who would be likely to approve the requests made by parents.
- Co-workers take dim view of women who seek flex time: Study. (2014, August 18). Retrieved from http://consumer.healthday.com/kids-health-information-23/parenting-health-news-525/co-workers-take-dim-view-of-women-seeking-flex-time-690746.html
- Miller, C. C. (2014, April 23). Pay gap is because of gender, not jobs. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/24/upshot/the-pay-gap-is-because-of-gender-not-jobs.html?abt=0002&abg=0
- Men viewed more favorably than women when seeking work-life balance. (2014, August 18). Retrieved from http://phys.org/news/2014-08-men-viewed-favorably-women-work-life.html
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