One way women have it better than men at work: flexible hours

In this June 22, 2015, photo, Sprout Pharmaceuticals CEO Cindy Whitehead works in her office in Raleigh, N.C.
In this June 22, 2015, photo, Sprout Pharmaceuticals CEO Cindy Whitehead works in her office in Raleigh, N.C. AP

As the number of breadwinner moms quadrupled over the past half-century, stereotypical gender roles began fading away. A dad who does his kids’ laundry is no longer an adorable anomaly. A mom grinding toward the corner office is just another ambitious employee.

The workplace, however, hasn’t transformed with the changing ideals of workers.

The latest example: Men are twice as likely as women to have their request for a flexible work schedule rejected, according to a new study from Australia.

Researchers at Bain & Company, an international consulting firm, and Chief Executive Women, an Australian advocacy group, surveyed 1,030 employees about how they juggled work and life. Thirty-eight percent of the female respondents said they worked flexible hours — part-time, night shift, etc. — while 28 percent of male respondents said the same.

Men aren’t necessarily less interested in flexible work schedules. Those who asked for more family-friendly hours sometimes encountered an insidious form of discrimination.

One said his manager told him, “part-time is traditionally only something we make work for women.” Another reported, “My boss told me I wouldn’t be able to get promoted working part-time.”

Melanie Sanders, a Bain partner who co-wrote the report, concluded this outdated attitude hurts everyone: Men can’t lead the lives they want, and women in dual-income households are stuck shouldering more domestic responsibilities.

“There are barriers still in the way of men accessing flexible work which suggest that they are suffering the stigmas and biases that women experienced more severely in the early days of their use of flexible working,” Sanders said in a written statement.

Further, another recent study from Bain’s American arm found that men and women counted on building flexible careers almost equally.

Half of the women and 51 percent of the men said they planned to emphasize non-work commitments over their career progression.