Tag Archives: Gender

Want more women in top positions? Provide them with more flexibility at work

Heejung Chung, University of Kent

The recent BBC report on the pay of its top earners laid bare the disparities between men and women’s earnings. But it should come as no surprise. The gender pay gap has been stubbornly stagnant over the past decade. According to the EU (which calculates the gap based on hourly pay differences between men and women), men earn around 20% more. And the UK’s official statistics group, which calculates the pay gap of full-time earnings, men earn an average of about 10% more than women.

One core reason for this difference is the tendency for women to drop out of the labour market or move into (bad and low-paid) part-time jobs after having children. Employment data makes this clear.

For example, in 2015, 85% of women between the ages of 25‒49 without children were employed, exactly the same proportion as childless men employed in the same age group. But women are likely to drop out of the labour market or reduce their hours after childbirth, while men are more likely to increase their hours and increase their labour market participation.

The stats show that there is a sharp drop in the employment rate of women with children – to 71% – while the employment rate of fathers rises to more than 90% . Further, only 16% of all women between the ages of 25‒49 without dependent children worked part-time, while this proportion more than triples for women in the same age group with children to 52% .

It isn’t just about working part-time but the quality of part-time work is also a factor. It is widely known that women usually switch to lower-paying, lower-quality jobs when moving into part-time work, due to the lack of high-quality well-paid part-time jobs in the UK .

So the question arises: what can we do to help women maintain their working patterns after childbirth, without sacrificing their careers? My research into flexible working arrangements shows that they can help women maintain their working hours and stay in employment.

Introducing flexitime

Obviously the more flexibility you have at work the better you are able to shape work around family demands. I myself am a good example of this. Coming back to work from having taken six months of maternity leave after the birth of my daughter, I would not have been able to go back to work full-time if it wasn’t for the flexibility I had at work. Given the great amount of freedom you have as an academic to work whenever and wherever you want (within limits), I was able to work full-time by working from home and catching up on work during the weekends and evenings when my baby was asleep or I had other childcare support available. It was hard and I lost a lot of sleep – but through such flexibility I was able to maintain my research career.

I wondered whether similar patterns could be observed for other women in the UK. To investigate, my colleague Mariska van der Horst and I used a data set of 40,000 households to see whether being able to have control over when you work and where you work influences women’s likelihood of remaining in employment and not reducing their working hours significantly (of more than 4 hours) after the birth of their children. The results were remarkable.

In our research, which was published in the journal Human Relations, we found that women who were able to use flexitime were only half as likely to reduce their working hours after the birth of their child. This effect was especially the case for the women who used flexitime prior to the birth of their child as well as after.


Heejung Chung, CC BY-ND

In the overall sample, more than half the women reduced their working hours after the birth of their child. But less than a quarter of the women who were able to use flexitime reduced their hours, with similar results for women who were able to work from home if they wanted to. This shows that, given the chance to work flexibly, many women would stay in work and maintain their hours and their pay after having children.

As I’ve found in previous research, not all jobs allow for flexible work arrangements – and they are not necessarily provided to those in most need of them. Rather, they tend to be given more to high-skilled, higher educated workers in supervisory roles. Another recent study found that a large number of mothers are forced to leave their jobs after flexible working requests were turned down.

The ConversationIt is not only a matter of justice but also a matter of society’s economic prosperity and development to ensure that women are able to remain in the labour market across different stages of the life cycle, including childbirth. The right to flexible working is crucial if we are to tackle the problem of gender inequality in the labour market – especially when it comes to having a balance at the top of the career ladder.

Heejung Chung, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Kent

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Mums forced out due to lack of flexible jobs

Nearly one in five [18%]  of working mums have been forced to leave their jobs because a flexible working request has been turned down, according to Workingmums.co.uk’s annual survey published today .

The survey of over 2,000 women in Workingmums.co.uk’s 10th anniversary year shows that over a quarter of mums in work [26%] have had a flexible working request turned down. Some 12 per cent said their employer did not even seem to consider their request at all and over a quarter [27%] said the reason given for turning down the request was not one which is allowable under flexible working legislation.

Continue reading

Can flexible working work for men?

Annabel Crabb in conversation with four men, each working flexible hours in various careers. What are the perceptions of men working flexible hours and how does this affect their careers, colleagues and family life?

WAF note: Key points mentioned here about the flexibility bias, how to eliminate them, and how to manage a flexible working workers – and finally flexibility is NOT only about reducing hours!

via the Australian Government’s  Workplace Gender Equality Agency

Helping men get work-life balance can help everyone

Laura Good, Deborah Towns and Jesse E. Olsen, from the Centre for Workplace Leadership at the University of Melbourne, discuss work-life balance, workplace gender inequality, and an innovative Australian programme to encourage more men to take-up flexible working arrangements.

Women’s increased participation in the labour force over the past 50 years has outpaced changes to work organisation and social attitudes. This is true for issues of work-life balance, which continue to polarise workers and managers.

But work-life balance and gender equality are not only women’s issues. They belong to men, too. Continue reading

Pregnancy and maternity discrimination forces thousands of new mothers out of their jobs – EHRC

Research from the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission suggests that 54,000 new mothers may be forced out of their jobs in Britain each year. Around 20% of the 3,200 new mothers surveyed also reported harassment or negative comments from managers and colleagues when returning to work.

Where they were able to take up flexible working options, half of new mothers reported negative consequences, including having fewer opportunities to develop their careers. Interestingly, mothers working for small businesses were less likely to report a negative impact from flexible work requests – 41% versus 51% across all respondents.

Read more at the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The Feminist Case For Paternity Leave – Huffington Post

To promote women at work, companies should be looking to provide men with more benefits, including committing to offering paternity leave.

Making leave for new parents gender-neutral, allowing both new mothers and fathers time to look after their child, would help to reduce the ‘motherhood’ penalty faced by women who, after taking parental leave, are less likely to be promoted and earn less than their male colleagues.

For paternity leave policies to have any affect, however, companies must do more than announce them. Rather, they need to encourage men to use them and help change workplace cultures where men fear taking paternity leave will damage their careers.

 

The more men that take paternity leave the sooner it will be normalised. This will mean new fathers and their child can benefit from more time spent together, and also that women will no longer face the stigma of taking maternity leave.

 

Read more the Huffington Post.

Men wanting more time for parenting must demand flexible workplaces – The Age

In Australia, it remains taken for granted that women will take primary responsibility for childcare. It is women who are overwhelmingly the stay-at-home child carers, and women who work part-time to accommodate childcare needs.

While many men might want to take on childcare responsibility there are factors that prevent them from doing so. The gender pay gap means that men often earn more than their female partners, making it more likely women who will give up work. It’s also the case that too few workplaces in Australia offer flexible work arrangements.

This lack of flexible working arrangements make it difficult for men to take on childcare responsibilities. Importantly, however, men must be active in asking for flexible work, to shift cultural expectations and make it the norm.

Read more at The Age.

Making choices between policies and real lives

Barbara Hobson draws on the research of a team within a large European Network of Excellence, Reconciling work and welfare (RECWOWE), many of whom are authors in the recent book, Worklife Balance: The Agency and Capabilities Gap, focusing on the individual/household, firm and managerial level and welfare state policy context across European countries and Japan. In this post she discusses the choices faced by those who seek to take advantage of work-life balance policies. Continue reading

The 24/7 Work Culture’s Toll on Families and Gender Equality – New York Times

It has often been assumed that a lack of family-friendly policies has kept many women from promotion to the highest ranks of the business world, and companies are starting to address this concern.

It may be that the lack of family-friendly policies may not be the most pressing issue. Rather the surge in hours worked by both men and women should be of primary concern as 24/7 work cultures ‘lock gender inequality in place’.

Issues of work-family conflict remain understood as primarily a woman’s problem; family-friendly policies designed to deal with work-family conflict target women and have unintended negative consequences for their careers. Yet, providing family-friend policy allows companies to focus on a narrow set of fixes and ignore more difficult questions about cultures of overwork.

Read more at the New York Times.

If We Want to Help Working Mothers, We Could Start With Paid Paternity Leave – XX Factor

Studies show that statutory maternity leaves and affordable childcare often have unintended consequences for women – such as reduced earnings, or discriminatory hiring practices by employers.

These negative effects should not be understood as undermining the case for such initiatives. Rather, they demonstrate that the assumption remains that childcare and other family responsibilities are the sole duty of women.

Family-friendly policy should be crafted to encourage greater uptake by both men and women, to help change the kinds of attitudes that rewards working men who become fathers and penalises women who become mothers.

Read more at XX Factor.