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Study shows flextime favors men

Friday - 9/5/2014, 4:53am  ET

workingmom.jpg
Mothers asking for flextime are sometimes viewed differently from men, a study finds. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON -- Working mothers still have a hard time getting flextime for family issues, while men seem to have no problem at all.

Joanie Connell, Ph.D., founder of the leadership consulting firm Flexible Work Solutions, says that if a woman asks for flextime, she is perceived as not being loyal to the company.

"But when a man asks for flextime, he is seen as being this great caregiver, and it's a positive," says Connell.

A study presented last month to the American Sociological Association suggested that women may even be penalized for asking.

Lead researcher Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at Furman University in South Carolina, says many have skewed perceptions of home-work situations. She told Live Science that people think women at home are fully engaged with their kids to the point of putting off work, while men just plop the kids in front of the TV and go to work.

In the study, 646 adults ages 18 to 64 were given actual work scenarios to read, and then comment on who should get the flextime off.

Nearly 70 percent of the participants leaned toward favoring the man's request, while 56.7 percent gave the time off to the woman. Men were viewed as extremely likable versus 3 percent of the working moms. More than 16 percent of women who asked for flextime were thought to be not very committed to their jobs, as opposed to 2.7 percent of men.

Connell points to gender congruence as the reason for the possible double standard.

"When you are stereotyping somebody, and their behavior is consistent to your expectations, that's congruent behavior. But if they behave outside of what you are expecting, then you get surprised and you have to make a new judgment, and you may think it as a positive," she says

For example, Connell says, men asking for time off to care for kids is gender-incongruous because it's expected of a woman.

"But for a man to ask, it's surprising," she says. "People have to think about it more and think, 'Wow, he must be a really great dad.'"

To change this perception, Munsch suggests companies come up with consistent policies that measure men and women equally.

Connell says society needs to look at how it's raising children to be the next generation of leaders.

"It's not just a women's problem."

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