Study: Men more likely than women to be granted flexible work requests

Men who requested flexible work schedules to care for a child were advantaged compared to women who made the same request, according to recently published data.

In the study lead by Christin Munsch, PhD, an assistant professor at Furman University, 646 participants from 18 years to 65 years were shown a transcript of an employee who requested a flexible work arrangement – either to come in early and leave early 3 days a week or to work from home 2 days a week – and then were asked how likely they would be to grant the request. They also were asked to rate the employee’s likeability, level of commitment to the job, dependability and dedication. The gender of the hypothetical employee and the reason for the request were varied.

Munsch found that 69.7% of participants would be “likely” or “very likely” to grant a flexible work request from a man for childcare-related reasons, while 56.7% of participants would be as likely to grant the request to a woman for the same reason.

The study also found that 24.3% of participants found the hypothetical male employee “extremely likeable,” while only 3% found the female employee “extremely likeable.” While 2.7% found the man “not at all” or “not very” committed, 15.5% said the same of women.

“These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work,” Munch stated in a press release. “Today, we still regard breadwinning as men’s primary responsibility and we feel grateful if men contribute in the realm of childcare or to other household tasks.”

Munsch said the study’s results should encourage employers to be cognizant of their biases and be “hesitant in assuming [flexible work options are] effective” ways to promote gender equality in the workplace.

The study also showed that, regardless of the employee’s gender, 63.5% of participants were willing to grant a request to work from home for childcare reasons, while just 40.7% said they would grant a request for an employee who wanted to reduce his or her commute time and carbon footprint. Munsch said those showed that childcare is seen as a more “legitimate” reason to request a flexible schedule.

“Both men and women who requested to work from home or work atypical hours to take care of a child were viewed as more respectable, likable, committed and worthy of a promotion, and their requests were more supported than those who requested flexible work for reasons unrelated to childcare,” Munsch stated.

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