How supporting men to work flexibly helps women’s careers
How supporting men to work flexibly helps women’s careers
March 7, 2024
March 7, 2024

It might sound strange to talk about greater flexible working for men on International Women’s Day. But men working more flexibly helps women’s careers. This is because men who work flexibly can take on more home and childcare duties. And if women have less to do at home and with childcare, they can stretch themselves more at work.

Our communications assistant Kate Stevenson explains what employers can do.

Types of flex

A total of 63% of men in Scotland currently work flexibly in some way. But our data suggests that while men are around more than they used to be for their families, women are still around the most and make bigger career sacrifices.

The most common types of flexible working – for men and women – are hybrid working and flexible start and finish times. But when it comes to reducing hours and working part-time, there’s a significant difference. Our data shows a quarter (25%) of Scottish female workers work part-time, compared with 14% of men.

The reason for this is often childcare. One in four (24%) women say their main reason for wanting flexible working is for childcare, compared with only one in 20 (4%) men. Childcare is also a common reason cited by unemployed women for being out of work. Research by ONS UK found that 27% of women who are not in work say this is because of family commitments, compared with 7% of men.

Encouraging more men to work flexibly, including working part time, so fathers in particular can care for their children more regularly, would help break traditional gender norms around who is the ‘primary carer’ and who is the ‘breadwinner’ and create a more inclusive workplace for men and women.

Overcoming concerns

Men are generally more concerned about the impact of working flexibly than women. While 43% of men think flexible working might negatively affect their chance of promotion, only 35% of women think the same. This is important as it suggests men feel more of a stigma around flexible working than women. But perhaps they have a valid reason for feeling this way, as studies have revealed men are more likely to have their flexible working requests refused.

There is an important role for employers in normalising all types of flexible working, especially for men, so they are not put off asking for flex they need.

Benefits to employers

Creating more flexible working has many general benefits for businesses, including improvements in recruiting and retaining skilled staff, reducing sickness and absence and improving productivity.

But if you can encourage more men to work flexibly and play a greater role at home, this will in time help more women to work, and to progress into senior positions. In your own organisation, greater flex for men (and women) creates a positive culture and a more diverse workforce. And according to consultancy McKinsey, gender diverse companies are 25% more likely to financially outperform organisations of average diversity.

What can employers do?

As an employer, you can support men and women by making sure you offer and encourage flexible working for everyone. Here are our top four tips

1. Support and train your line managers.

First, help your line managers understand the benefits of flexible working by sharing why it’s good for your organisation as well as your people. It’s important your managers know that flex isn’t just for mothers and that all kinds of people want or need flex for all kinds of reasons.

2. Make conversations about flex standard.

We know many workers feel uncomfortable asking for flex, but it doesn’t mean they don’t want it. In particular, our data shows men are more concerned than women about the impact on their career if they work flexibly. Employers that are proactive in talking about flexible working with workers in team meetings, or as part of regular 1-1 catch-ups, will benefit from happier, more motivated staff who stay longer.

3. Role model senior men working flexibly to illustrate what’s acceptable.

Having senior managers as role models for flexible working can demonstrate to your workers what is acceptable. For instance, if a senior manager leaves early to see their child in a school show, they should make this evident in their diary and by saying goodbye as they leave. The same applies if they work hybrid, part-time, or any other type of flex.

  • If you’re a senior manager yourself, encourage others to take the flexibility they might need at times by creating an environment where people feel safe to speak up.

4. Monitor career progression of flexible workers.
Monitoring who is working flexibly and whether or not they are progressing in their careers at the same rate as non-flexible workers will show whether managers understand the benefits of flexible working and whether projects and promotions are being awarded fairly. Having the data will help your organisation guard against creating a two-tier workforce, where people who work flexibly are overlooked and those full time in the office are prioritised.

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