The Washington Post

Men–not women–get favored for flex-time

Allie Ghaman/The Washington Post

The "mommy track" gets its name, in part, because of the stereotype of who typically gets flex-time jobs—professional working mothers who wish to dial back their schedule in order to care for children at home.

But a new study by researchers at the Yale School of Management, the University of Texas at Austin and Harvard Business School finds that it is actually men--particularly, men seeking career advancement opportunities--who are most likely to be granted a flexible schedule.

The study, published in the July issue of the Journal of Social Issues, asked managers to respond to requests for a shift in work hours from various employees. Those asking for the different schedule were either male or female, either in a managerial or hourly wage position, and asking for flexibility to either care for family or take a professional development class.

Managers were most likely to grant a flextime schedule to the men in managerial positions who were seeking to advance their careers. And surprisingly, hourly male workers were particularly apt, the study found, to get approval for a flex-time schedule to take care of family. Meanwhile, both the managerial and hourly-wage women were actually unlikely to be granted flextime for either family or career reasons.

Such different standards for men and women may help to disrupt some of our stereotypes of who gets flex-time, but it doesn't help more women get ahead. “If scheduling leeway to pursue career advancement is granted to men who are already in high-status positions," Yale's Victoria Brescoll, one of the researchers, said in a release about the new study, "that may contribute to their more rapid career advancement. It may also be that the association between women and motherhood is so strong that even high-status women requesting flextime to advance their careers might be suspected of hiding the true reason for their request."

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

Read also:

How we judge the mistakes of male vs. female leaders

Why work-life balance doesn't work

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.



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