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Flexible work is still a challenge

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New research suggests that barriers to flexibility stand in the way of gender parity.

While women with flexible work arrangements are more likely to succeed, negative perceptions discourage men from taking advantage of such models, a new report by Bain & Co and leadership advocacy group Chief Executive Women shows.

The report surveyed over 1000 members of Australian not-for-profit, government and business organisations about their use of flexible work models.

Results found that in order to advance gender equality in the workplace, businesses need to have flexible work arrangements in place and they must be available to and supported by both genders.

“If Australian society really aspires to equal workforce participation by men and women at every level of leadership, then there is a clear imperative to ensure that both genders are equally enabled to share the caregiving role,” the authors wrote.

“Men and women therefore need to have equal access and equal success in working flexibly, without negative judgements or repercussions for their career progression.”

Currently less than 50 per cent of Australian organisations have a workplace flexibility policy and even when such policies exist, there are barriers to effective utilisation.

CEW spokesperson and co-author Meredith Hellicar said: “If we aspire to adapt to the workplace of the future and the increasing desires of both genders to play meaningful parenting roles, then we need strong leadership from the CEO and active support from all managers and significant role models to make flexible working a success for men and women.”

The report identifies key actions businesses can implement to normalise and accelerate the success of flexible working.

  • Actively encourage and role model the uptake of flexible work arrangements
  • Ensure flexible arrangements are supported and working successfully for both genders
  • Create the right culture and support employee priorities of career progression, visible support from the CEO, leadership team and colleagues, and respect of boundaries
  • Create clear policies around promotion and compensation when working flexibly
  • Ensure technology and an agile work environment are in place and working well

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