Gender equality: Men held back by hidden bias

by 05 Aug 2013

In order to achieve a work-life balance, many Australian workplaces urge employees to adopt flexible working arrangements. However, research by The 100% Project found unconscious bias prevents men from accessing flexible working arrangements.

Both men and women respondents stated they felt their careers may suffer if they asked for flexible working arrangements. Many also perceived flexible arrangements as appropriate only for women, stopping men from accessing them.

Unconscious bias refers to all bias that an individual is unaware they have, and therefore unaware they are acting upon.

“We know that men have an unconscious bias against work-life balance but even if they were to somehow overcome this bias and ask for greater work-life balance, they still face significant backlash from female colleagues or partners for doing so,” Dr Fiona Page, director at The 100% Project, said.

Nicholas S. Barnett, CEO of Insync Surveys Co, stated that flexible work arrangements carry a stigma that the participant isn’t serious about advancing their career. This is especially true for men, as societal expectations still view women as the preferred primary caregiver, therefore justifying their need for flexible work arrangements.

“Societal expectations are starting to change a little in this regard but change is slow,” he stated. “Organisations that encourage men to work flexibly and normalise flexible working arrangements for both men and women, irrespective of whether family responsibilities are involved or not, will go some way to breaking down this component of the dominant masculine culture within our organisations. “

While obviously damaging to male employees, unconscious bias also negatively impacts women, as men are less likely to be able to support their partner in the rearing of a family.

“This cultural mindset means that men are less likely to access work-life balance initiatives offered by their workplaces and women are more likely to continue to carry the burden of maintaining a home and raising their children, hindering the ability for more women to become leaders in organisations,” Dr Page said.

HC previously reported on stigma in the workplace surrounding male caregivers.


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