Part-time and flexible working arrangements are most predominantly accessed by women. The case for change is mounting though. More people are seeking greater work flexibility to manage caring responsibilities or pursue their non-work passions. ABS statistics show that the number of men working part-time has more than doubled over the last 20 years, with 1.2 million men now working part-time.
A quick lesson in demographics shows us that although there is less than 10% gap in workforce participation between men and women, women by far outnumber men working part-time. Part-time workers are still 70% women, and 46% of women work part-time. WGEA reports that women comprise 46% of employees, but only 24.8% of full time workers.
Stereotypes and unconscious bias around part-time work persist
Many men report being afraid to ask their employer to work part-time. Prevailing workplace cultures demand full-time (and out of hours) work for those who want to be perceived as serious about their careers. But beyond that, they demand office attendance. This is ludicrous, not to mention unnecessary, in our 24/7 technology connected world.
Traditionally, career paths are viewed as a linear trajectory
Successive promotions within one professional field, either within or across industries is regarded as the optimal recipe for executive pedigree. Domestic and global mobility is also valued by many large corporates. But this is challenging for dual career couples to navigate, with one person generally forced to be the ‘trailing spouse’. This view of the prerequisite career path for a C-suite executive is a social legacy of the male breadwinner and stay at home mother gender stereotypes. Women in Australia and globally, who still take on primary carer roles, are more likely to have career breaks, career transitions and follow non-linear career paths.
Until we seriously challenge these traditional notions and our legacy workforce structures, part-time working will remain stigmatised
And will continue to be seen as the dominion of women. Increasingly, employees are voting with their feet. Several men I know have negotiated jobs based on a part-time working arrangement, either asking employers to modify their existing full time role or applying for a full time role and at interview requesting a part-time option. Within my immediate friendship group, six men currently work part-time or are full time primary carers. They are all mid-career university qualified lawyers, engineers, teachers, and university lecturers in their 30’s and 40’s. Are they throwing away their chance at a C-suite role? Currently, yes. Because only 3.6% of managers work part-time.
We need to mainstream part-time for men
Men increasingly want to access part-time and flexible work to participate in caring responsibilities, but they still don’t feel supported in doing so. And in reality, men are twice as likely to have their requests for flexible work knocked back by their manager and employer. Until we normalise (and value) parents sharing care, see career breaks, resumptions and transitions for all as the standard, we will struggle to achieve gender equality.
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