Men more likely to be given flexible schedules

By Adam Sorensen, World at Work

A new study published in the Journal of Social Issues finds that managers are more likely to grant male employees’ requests for flexible work schedules. Researchers found that managers are most likely to approve requests for flexibility from men in high-status jobs in order to pursue career development opportunities (such as professional development courses) whereas they were less likely to approve similar requests from women in equal status positions. The researchers expected that men would be less likely to be granted flexibility for childcare reasons than women, but the project found that men in low-status jobs were more likely to have their requests approved than men in high-status jobs but job status itself had no meaningful impact on the likelihood of a woman’s request being granted.

Of course, this is only one study looking at only a few dimensions of flexibility, but it does pose some interesting questions about access to flexibility within organisations. In my experience, neither women nor men seem to have a clear edge in gaining approval for their flexibility requests. However, job level and status do seem to have at least some impact.

Many years ago, my team was asked to develop a new flexibility policy for the organisation. As we went through the various levels of approval, including a presentation to the C-Suite, the perspective about needing to ask permission (and thus the need for a policy) changed dramatically. At lower levels in the organisation, there was clearly the belief that employees needed to ask permission for flexibility and that there was a real need for policies and procedures to manage these requests. Higher in the organisation, flexibility seemed like a non-issue – at least to those in the room – because it was viewed as something that one simply took to be effective and manage one’s own career and workload. Helping senior executives understand that those further down in the organisation did not share their sense of empowerment and the ability to “take” versus “ask” was sometimes challenging.

What are you seeing in your organisations? Are there differences between women and men in their likelihood of getting approval for flexibility? Between lower and higher status employees? If so, what, if anything, should reward professionals do to address these differences?

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  • We're a small company and sadly it's a lot to do with your personal connection and ranking towards superiors than anything else - appeasement and pub pals

    And being a male driven world women have it even harder if they haven't a  guardian