Flexible work bias… towards men?

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Is unconscious bias keeping your flex work options from effectively supporting working mothers? A new study finds people are more likely to approve men’s leave to care for children or other family members.

Head researcher Christin Munsch, from Furman University, had more than 600 participants review transcripts of requests for flexible work arrangements such as adjusted work hours or working from home.

“Among those who read the scenario in which a man requested to work from home for childcare related reasons, 69.7 percent said they would be "likely" or "very likely" to approve the request, compared to 56.7 percent of those who read the scenario in which a woman made the request,” the paper said. “Almost a quarter—24.3 percent—found the man to be "extremely likeable," compared to only 3 percent who found the woman to be "extremely likeable." And, only 2.7 percent found the man "not at all" or "not very" committed, yet 15.5 percent found the woman "not at all" or "not very" committed.”

The culprit is likely to be an unconscious bias that rewards men for taking on caretaker roles, while seeing the same role as a normal part of a woman’s life.

"These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work," Munsch said. "Today, we think of women's responsibilities as including paid labor and domestic obligations, but we still regard breadwinning as men's primary responsibility and we feel grateful if men contribute in the realm of childcare or to other household tasks."


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  • Justin B. on 2014-08-25 4:21:13 PM

    If I am reading the article correctly, there were separate requests from men and women. If you want to understand unconscious bias, you randomize the requests with stereotypically male and female names and then see if the apparent gender of the author changes how the exact same text is interpreted by the reader. Otherwise there could be another factor involved such as men in general only asked for a couple hours off early vs. women who generally asked for the entire day for example.

    The methodology of this study doesn't seem very sound.

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