working women

Who Has Flexible Working Arrangements?

An academic study was presented yesterday at the American Sociological Association, highlighting some potentially troubling results for women seeking flexible working arrangements.  Participants were shown fictionalized transcripts of some workers asking for modified work hours (e.g. coming in earlier and leaving earlier, or working from home 2 days per week) for one of a few reasons (i.e. childcare, reducing long commute times or carbon footprint).  Men who asked for flexible working arrangements were both perceived more positively if they made the request for childcare reasons and more likely to actually get it than a woman in the same position.

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One reporter writing about this so-called “dad advantage” noticed this study confirms prior research showing that anyone who does ask for flexibility is viewed as a less than an ideal worker, regardless of their gender or reasons.  However, this study appears to contradict other ones showing men are penalized more than women when asking for flexibility.  

Sexism and gender roles aside, all of this prompted me to wonder: who are the people who have these flexible work arrangements?  What are their job roles and how do these arrangements actually work?  According to a 2013 poll of over 2,000 Americans, approximately 30% of the non-self employed work from home at least part of “normal” business hours.  They may not look like what you imagine because they:

  • Are more likely to be men (37%) than women (31%) 
  • Are more likely to be “Millenial” (18-34) than any other age group
  • Are only slightly more likely to be parents (41%) than non-parents (31%)

Humor me for a second with this thought experiment: if Mark Zuckerberg had a child, he could be the archetypal image of the flexible worker!  Maybe Professor Munsch’s study is not so surprising.  After all, if the men who ask for these arrangements are really more likable and more likely to actually get their requests granted than women who do the same, then we shouldn’t be surprised that there are so many young men with flexible working arrangements.  

What do you think?  I’m having trouble squaring this data with my own anecdotal experience.  Do you know anyone who fits these demographics that has flexible working arrangements, and what do they do for a living?



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