IZA World of Labor
February 15, 2017

Could flexible working help close the gender gap?

Could flexible working help close the gender gap?

The main reason for the gender gaps at work is employers’ expectation that people spend long hours at their desks, research has shown. This is especially difficult for women because they have a disproportionate responsibility for caregiving.

Flexibility regarding the time and place that work is done would help toward closing the gaps, economists say. However when people ask for it, they can be penalized in pay and promotions. This discourages employees from asking for flexibility, even when companies offer it.

A new job search company, Werk, is trying to address the problem by negotiating for flexibility with employers before posting jobs, so employees don’t have to. All the positions listed on the site are highly skilled jobs that offer an element of control over the time and place of work.

Another option on the site gives employees the freedom to adjust their schedules because of unpredictable obligations, without questions asked from their employer.

70% of working mothers, and 48% of working fathers, say having a flexible work schedule is extremely important to them, according to a Pew survey.

A study by ten researchers from seven universities published in December found that workplace flexibility reduces turnover and work-family conflict.

In his article on Working Time Autonomy for IZA World of Labor, Michael Beckmann says, “Working-time autonomy improves both employee and firm productivity. Furthermore, the positive productivity effect can be increased if employees are allowed to participate in the selection decision on assignment to a particular working-time arrangement. Working-time autonomy is also likely to increase an employer’s attractiveness to employees, as indicated by sharply declining turnover rates.” He also highlights that family-friendly personnel policy could still contribute to firm performance through reduced turnover and wage costs.

See our articles on childcare policy and maternal employment.