It said flexible working is one of three areas in which improvements are needed if women are to realise leadership and management potential. The report also named unconscious gender bias and the processes for women leaving and re-entering the workplace when taking career breaks as areas for concern.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs report: Realising the opportunity, draws on research in the UK, US and Australia. It said organisations should “see flexible working as a business imperative to meet the needs of the whole workforce.”
The report added that younger workers seeking work-life balance; older workers wanting semi-retirement; men wanting a greater role in childcare; and men and women needing time for elder care all need flexible working solutions.
It said showcasing flexibility in senior roles is a good way for businesses to increase flexible working and alter the stigma.
Key human resource policies and practices that support career progression are usually designed around full-time, office-based workers, said the report. “Such policies and practices may need to be revised to meet the needs of women re-entering the workforce in jobs that are designed to progress their leadership career while allowing them to work flexibly.
“Even when flexible policies are in place, workplace practices such as early morning meetings, after-work networking, or assumptions about clients’ expectations for availability create workplace norms and values that can impede actual take-up and implementation.”
The report added that men may find it hard to request flexible working arrangements because of workplace culture and that executive attitudes and behaviour is extremely important in altering this unconscious bias.
“Embedding a flexible working culture within an organisation is likely to be difficult and also may be aided or hindered by the sector in which the organisation operates,” it said.
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