Study: Bosses Grant More Flextime for Men Than Women

A male employee in a high-status job who is seeking professional development opportunities is more likely to get a flextime request approved, according to a new study.

Women may be perceiving greater equality in the workplace, but when it comes to flextime requests—for personal or professional reasons—men are more likely to get their manager’s approval, according to a new study by researchers at the Yale School of Management, the University of Texas-Austin, and Harvard Business School.

Men in high-status jobs seeking flextime to pursue career development opportunities were most likely to have their requests approved, while women in both high- and low-status (hourly-wage) positions seeking a flexible schedule for family or professional reasons were more likely to have their request denied.

“Workers most in need of flexible scheduling—women in low-status jobs with childcare needs—are among the least likely to receive accommodations from their managers,” said Victoria Brescoll, assistant professor of organizational behavior at the Yale School of Management. “All women workers, regardless of their status or the reason for their request, face a gendered wall of resistance to their requests for flextime.”

To study the factors that affect a manager’s decision to grant or deny flextime requests, researchers asked managers to react to different scenarios in which employees sought a shift in their hours.

“We randomly assigned [managers] to view bios of different types of employees, and in the bios we changed a few things: We changed the gender of the employee, the kind of job that they were in, and then the reason why they were asking for a flexible work schedule,” said Brescoll.

Researchers also asked male and female employees to put themselves in similar situations and predict whether their requests would be granted.

“Both men and women were much more pessimistic than the managers themselves were,” Brescoll said. “Asking certainly isn’t getting, but people are more pessimistic than they need to be. However, women were actually more optimistic that they would get their request granted than men, and that didn’t reflect what was going on.”

Another finding showed that the gender of the manager didn’t have an impact on his or her final decision to grant or deny flextime requests.

“Male and female managers basically responded exactly the same,” Brescoll said. “This is surprising, because you would think that maybe female managers would have more experience with this issue or somehow be more flexible and understanding, but that really wasn’t the case.”

In future studies, Brescoll hopes to look at more real-world occurrences.

“This study was hypothetical. People weren’t given the power to actually grant or deny a request; they just said, ‘This is what I would do.’ It’d be interesting to look at what managers really do do and see if that matches up [with this study], and then also try to get more of an idea about why they make the decision that they do,” Brescoll said.

Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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