Monthly Archives: August 2014

Breaking down barriers for men to access flexible work options

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Men and Flexibility, Part 2

Last week we presented the benefits for why we should include men in the conversation about improving access to flexible work arrangements. This week we look at how to actually go about doing it.

“Engaging men around flexibility is not necessarily about designing and implementing discrete programs or initiatives for men at work. While such initiatives certainly have a place, engaging men is about broadening the approach and integrating a focus on men and flexibility across existing initiatives and strategies relating to flexibility and cultural change, leadership commitment and capability development, high performing teams and career development.” WGEA

Here’s what the Workplace Gender Equality Agency recommends for helping men access flexible work arrangements:

1. Recognise the diversity amongst men

Organisations need to recognise diversity of men’s work, life-stage and lifestyle, cultural background, sexual orientation and so on. Understanding this diversity is critical to effectively respond to men’s workplace needs, as well as being able to engage them in the flexibility journey.

2. Build a focus on men and flexibility into your flexible work framework by…

  • Flexibility reframed: Emphasise the business case for men to engage in flexible work and broaden the definition of flexibility to include full-time work, self-managed flexibility, and formal and informal flexible work.
  • Culture: Foster an organisational culture that is supportive of flexible work for men. Effective strategies might be to pro-actively encourage men to engage in flexible work and to provide opportunities for men to share their experiences of flexible work. Flexible work and careers need to be promoted as legitimate and available to all employees.
  • Leadership: Develop and publicise senior male role models of flexible work to break the perception that senior roles equal no flexibility. Ask:
    • Why flexibility for men? What is our business case for a focus on men and flexibility?
    • What is the current situation? Do men value flexible work in our organisation?  To what extent do they utilise it and in what forms? What is the diversity amongst men in terms of valuing and utilising flexible work?
    • What needs to change? How can men’s engagement in flexible work be increased and thus move flexible work from the margins to the mainstream?
    • New model of success: Address men’s reluctance to use flexible work for fear of career penalties by designing new roles with flexibility as the standard, integrating flexibility into senior roles and illustrating ‘success stories’.
    • Team focus: Recognise that success in integrating flexible work hinges on the relationship between individuals and their teams, and build flexibility into standard team-based operating procedures.
    • Paternity leave: Review current policies and provide men with greater access to parental and paternity leave.
    • Fatherhood: Use fatherhood as an effective starting point to integrate flexibility and reduce gender differences in accessing flexible work. Focus on a long-term approach beyond parental leave. Take account of:
      • Fatherhood is relevant for a majority of men (80% of men will become fathers during their lifetime). Most men (and women) will have children in their early 30s when they are also in the key years of their experience of paid employment.
      • Access to flexible work is particularly critical for this demographic group for the achievement of gender equality in work and caring.
      • The transition to fatherhood presents a key opportunity for organisations to engage men in accessing flexible work.
      • Consider the contribution men and fathers make to individual, family and social well-being, and the indirect benefit this will have on business performance.
      • Recognise that gender equality at work depends in part on gender equality at home. Consider how your organisation’s communication strategies around flexibility can validate men increasing their overall engagement in caregiving and household work.

For the full Workplace Gender Equality Agency perspective paper see Engaging men in flexible working arrangements.

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Let’s not forget the men in the flexible work conversation

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Men and Flexibility – Part 1

Men are often forgotten in the flexibility and family friendly work conversation. This is unfortunate for both men and women, as well as organisations, the economy and the wider community. There are many missed opportunities and benefits but what about starting with just one? Plain old, ‘the right to equality’. As female participation in the workforce has increased over the years so has male home caring responsibilities which begs the question why aren’t we talking about this more? And why are so many men wanting (yet, not utilising) flexible work arrangements?

To keep gender equity rolling in the right direction it’s only fair we include men in the bigger picture. In the next two Parents@Work blogs we highlight some key findings delivered by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency in its paper Engaging men in flexible working arrangements. This week we look at why it’s a good idea that employers and women help men access it. Then next week we’ll explain how organisations can break down barriers and improve accessibility to flexible arrangements for male employees specifically.

But first, a few fast facts:

  • Men (17.3%) are less likely to ask for flexible work arrangements than women (24.2%).
  • Men are more likely to utilize “informal” flexibility e.g. flexible start and end times (Women are more likely to utilise “formal” flexibility e.g. part-time work, parental leave).
  • Men (17.4%) are more likely than women (9.8%) to have their request for flexibility declined.
  • Management and leadership roles are still dominated by men yet there are fewer opportunities higher up the chain for flexible work arrangements.
  • 63% of fathers with children that are living at home have a partner in the workforce.
  • Lack of flexibility was reported by 18% of men as a prime reason they had seriously considered leaving their employer.
In place of the traditional ideal worker/breadwinner role, men’s identities, priorities and aspirations in relation to work and family/personal life have diversified. In tandem with this, men’s (and particularly fathers’) needs have also changed, but employers have not kept up with these changes, and as a consequence have been unresponsive to men’s and fathers’ needs.[1]

Why should organisations and women help men access their right to flexibility?

Men want it.

Research shows that flexibility is in the top five priorities for men of all ages and roles when choosing a job. Diversity Council Australia research found this to be particularly true for young fathers of which 79% want to choose their start and finish times, 79% want to work less hours per week and 56% wanting to work part of their week from home.

Men are more than ever actively involved in caring responsibilities, which boosts the economy via increased female work participation.

Women can return to work sooner, have access to more opportunities and more room to move when planning their flexible work arrangements. For employers this means a broader talent pool to choose from and an increase in productivity. “If we could [lift] women’s participation just 6%, we would add around $25 billion annually to Australia’s GDP. This has got significant productivity benefits for Australia.” Sex Discrimination Commissioner Elizabeth Broderick told ABC News.

The challenge facing employers is “to increase flexible work arrangements that do not condemn employees to low quality jobs and leave women on the ‘mommy track’ of jobs that lack quality and career opportunities”.

Men deserve work life balance too.

The Diversity Council Australia research also found that men who don’t access flexibility found it more difficult to manage the demands of life and work. It found the “negative outcomes of this include decreased job satisfaction, increased turnover intentions and declining job engagement.” 

Men who work flexibly are more productive.

When we feel our family priorities are supported we are more likely to bring a sense of gratitude and purpose to the workplace and therefore be more productive employees. 

“A study of 60 men employed in a prestigious consulting firm identified that men who shared a high commitment to work but bounded their availability to work (e.g., by being home at night to have family meals, not working on weekends etc.), were in fact the highest performers based on independently obtained performance evaluation data.” WGEA 

A father’s active engagement in parenting improves wellbeing – for themselves and their partner.

Research shows that active parenting “provides fathers with opportunities to develop and understand themselves differently”[2], can reduce conflict in the home and improve their psychological and general health along the way. Flexibility is a key contributor to enabling a more active parenting role.


[1] Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Engaging Men in Flexible Working Arrangements, viewed 11.8.2014,

[2] Questia Online Research, Responsiveness in Father-Child Relationships: The Experience of Fathers, viewed 11.8.14

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Diversity Council Australia recommendations for gender equity measures to increase women in leadership

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Diversity Council Australia has found measures to promote gender equity in the workplace have failed dismally at getting more women into leadership roles. The independent council, which advises businesses, has reviewed current measures including mentoring and found they have not worked.

It has also found gender stereotypes persist and that women are still used as scapegoats for structural problems in the workplace.

“If we did nothing at the moment, with current practices that are in place, it would take about 177 years to reach gender equity in our workplaces – which is pretty unacceptable,” the council’s Lisa Annese said.

Ms Annese says unless methods such as career path sponsoring are widely adopted, women will will remain under-represented in executive ranks.

“Relying on the ‘pipeline’ of women leaders to reach the top, thinking that merit alone will solve the issue, adopting programs that aim to ‘fix women’ and blaming them for not ‘leaning in’ enough have not and will not change the picture,” she added in a statement.

“In contrast, the evidence shows that other initiatives – in particular actively sponsoring women into leadership positions, addressing bias at every level, adopting broader definitions of what leadership looks like, and public accountability via reporting on measurable outcomes – will actually deliver results.”

Ms Annese says research shows many current leadership models are based on male stereotypes and need to be redefined.

“Conventional wisdom says that the best leaders have good ‘cultural fit’, ‘executive presence’, gravitas, and need to be ‘ideal workers’ available 24/7 but these stereotypes not only favour men but actively work against women,” she said.

“As just one example, women’s voice pitch, height and physical build can interfere with perceptions of their executive presence and authority.

“Just as importantly, these are also not necessarily the best measures of leadership capability.

“For example, research shows that introverts can be just as, and sometimes more effective as leaders than extroverts, caregivers make better people managers, and women in flexible roles are the most productive employee segment. It also clearly demonstrates that diverse perspectives add real value – a value lost when ‘cultural fit’ is relied upon.”

What does not work, according to the Diversity Council:

  • The ‘pipeline theory’ that says gender balance will be achieved over time now that there are more women entering the workforce and moving into more senior roles
  • Formal talent management programs that ignore gender
  • A focus on promoting ‘meritocracy’ (the council says this results in gender biased decision-making and favours men)
  • Asking women to ‘lean in’ more (the council says they are already ambitious and leaning in, and men benefit more from leaning in than women).

Instead, the council wants to see: 

  • ‘Gender conscious’ initiatives such as targeted recruitment programs and women’s leadership development
  • Fixing the culture by moving away from the ‘deficit model’ that says women are the problem
  • Sponsorship (which is associated with women’s advancement) rather than mentoring (which develops women but does not lead to their advancement)
  • Addressing bias of all kinds (conscious, unconscious, individual, organisational)
  • Targets and public accountability as well as a dedicated diversity function
  • Adopting a broader, more gender inclusive (and effective) definition of leadership capability.

First published: 4th August 2014

Source: ABC News

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Senior Female Retention: What women really want

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In 2014 Citi conducted a global study to investigate the root causes leading to senior   attrition – both male and female. I love data – not for data’s sake but because it provides an accurate story of what is going on inside the company.

A troubling statistic

“…our senior female attrition was running higher than our senior male attrition – for a company seriously invested in making progress in the numbers of women we have in senior roles, that was a troubling statistic…”

The data point that sparked this particular study was that our senior female attrition was running higher than our senior male attrition – for a company seriously invested in making progress in the numbers of women we have in senior roles, that was a troubling statistic. More concerning was that nobody seemed to have a good idea of why this was the case.

The study included 500 men and women who had left the firm on a voluntary basis over a 24 month period and was carried out as both an online survey and follow-up phone interviews.

A new and different story about senior female retention

Participants came from every part of our business and geography – Asia, North America, Latin America and Europe. Although the data collected was Citi specific, what the survey uncovered tells a new and different story about senior female retention that I think, can be useful both for employers and women who are making their way up the corporate ladder.

  1. Women take time – women had tenure over their male colleagues. 50% of the women in the European study had over 10 years’ experience with Citi compared to only 10% of their male counterparts. They had invested a significant part of their working life at the firm. They also took longer to make the decision to leave – 13% taking up to two years. There seems to be a loyalty dynamic at play with our senior women that is more prevalent than our male cohort.
  2. Women talk it through – everyone talks their career decisions over with family, but there seems to be two groups that the men are not talking to, their bosses and HR. Conversely 90% of women talked with their manager ahead of time, and 50% of women spoke with their HR partner. I believe this represents a huge opportunity for organisations in that we can raise manager capability to hold meaningful career conversations and encourage greater connectedness in terms of talent and mobility discussions.  For senior women, the thing to take away from this is that there is a need to have more impactful conversations. Raising an issue is a great start, articulating the issue in a way that it gets truly heard and acted upon is something else.
  3. Female attrition is NOT about flexibility or work life balance challenges – the majority of women in the study strongly disagreed that flexibility or work life balance challenges had anything to do with their decision to leave. The message came back loud and clear – “we are here to work, we want large, complex, exciting leadership challenges. Let me worry about what is going on at home”.
  4. Female attrition is NOT about leaving to look after a family – the number of women in the European Study who left to look after children is 0.  In the global study only 4% of those who left are at home. The majority of our women (63%) have gone on to other corporate roles in the financial services sector exactly the same as the percentage of men, and a number of them (22%) have started their own business.
  5. Female breadwinners – 67% of the women in the study reported that they were the main breadwinner for the family. The 1950’s legacy of women working for ‘pin money’ died with the last century and its time we woke up to that. The mortgage, kids’ education, pensions and financial planning are being funded and supported by senior women as much as the traditional male breadwinner ever was. Promotions, pay and career path are all as equally important.
  6. Tipping point – Female attrition seems to be led by an accumulation of micro disappointments rather than one significant event. It wasn’t the promotion people missed out on, or the change in business model but rather the growing frustration that career pace and trajectory were not aligned with expectations. And rather like a set of old-fashioned kitchen scales – when the tipping point is reached there is no going back.

So what do senior women really want?

Unsurprisingly – exactly the same as senior men. They want challenge and stretch, they want their careers to move forward with momentum and impact. They will give the organisation the benefit of the doubt for far longer than their male counterparts, but ultimately they will leave to continue to grow.

By: Carolanne Minashi, Head of Diversity, Employee Relations and Employee Engagement at Citi

First published: 16th July 2014

Source: Womanthology

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