Want more women in top positions? Provide them with more flexibility at work

Heejung Chung, Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Social Policy, University of Kent
shutterstock.com

The recent BBC report on the pay of its top earners laid bare the disparities between men and women’s earnings. But it should come as no surprise. The gender pay gap has been stubbornly stagnant over the past decade. According to the EU (which calculates the gap based on hourly pay differences between men and women), men earn around 20% more. And the UK’s official statistics group, which calculates the pay gap of full-time earnings, men earn an average of about 10% more than women.

One core reason for this difference is the tendency for women to drop out of the labour market or move into (bad and low-paid) part-time jobs after having children. Employment data makes this clear.

For example, in 2015, 85% of women between the ages of 25‒49 without children were employed, exactly the same proportion as childless men employed in the same age group. But women are likely to drop out of the labour market or reduce their hours after childbirth, while men are more likely to increase their hours and increase their labour market participation.

The stats show that there is a sharp drop in the employment rate of women with children – to 71% – while the employment rate of fathers rises to more than 90% . Further, only 16% of all women between the ages of 25‒49 without dependent children worked part-time, while this proportion more than triples for women in the same age group with children to 52% .

It isn’t just about working part-time but the quality of part-time work is also a factor. It is widely known that women usually switch to lower-paying, lower-quality jobs when moving into part-time work, due to the lack of high-quality well-paid part-time jobs in the UK .

So the question arises: what can we do to help women maintain their working patterns after childbirth, without sacrificing their careers? My research into flexible working arrangements shows that they can help women maintain their working hours and stay in employment.

Introducing flexitime

Obviously the more flexibility you have at work the better you are able to shape work around family demands. I myself am a good example of this. Coming back to work from having taken six months of maternity leave after the birth of my daughter, I would not have been able to go back to work full-time if it wasn’t for the flexibility I had at work. Given the great amount of freedom you have as an academic to work whenever and wherever you want (within limits), I was able to work full-time by working from home and catching up on work during the weekends and evenings when my baby was asleep or I had other childcare support available. It was hard and I lost a lot of sleep – but through such flexibility I was able to maintain my research career.

I wondered whether similar patterns could be observed for other women in the UK. To investigate, my colleague Mariska van der Horst and I used a data set of 40,000 households to see whether being able to have control over when you work and where you work influences women’s likelihood of remaining in employment and not reducing their working hours significantly (of more than 4 hours) after the birth of their children. The results were remarkable.

In our research, which was published in the journal Human Relations, we found that women who were able to use flexitime were only half as likely to reduce their working hours after the birth of their child. This effect was especially the case for the women who used flexitime prior to the birth of their child as well as after.

In the overall sample, more than half the women reduced their working hours after the birth of their child. But less than a quarter of the women who were able to use flexitime reduced their hours, with similar results for women who were able to work from home if they wanted to. This shows that, given the chance to work flexibly, many women would stay in work and maintain their hours and their pay after having children.

As I’ve found in previous research, not all jobs allow for flexible work arrangements – and they are not necessarily provided to those in most need of them. Rather, they tend to be given more to high-skilled, higher educated workers in supervisory roles. Another recent study found that a large number of mothers are forced to leave their jobs after flexible working requests were turned down.

It is not only a matter of justice but also a matter of society’s economic prosperity and development to ensure that women are able to remain in the labour market across different stages of the life cycle, including childbirth. The right to flexible working is crucial if we are to tackle the problem of gender inequality in the labour market – especially when it comes to having a balance at the top of the career ladder.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

The Conversation

Heejung Chung receives funding from the the ESRC for the project "Working-time flexibility and work-life balance" (Grant ref: ES/K009699/1)

  • All the signs that hinted at Duchess Meghan's pregnancy – from her outfits to her body language
    News
    Hello!

    All the signs that hinted at Duchess Meghan's pregnancy – from her outfits to her body language

    The Duke and Duchess of Sussex have announced they are expecting their first baby! The palace released the news in a sweet statement on Monday morning, which read: "Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are very pleased to announce that The Duchess of Sussex is expecting a baby in the Spring of 2019. On a number of occasions during the summer, the Duchess was seen discreetly using her body language to hide any sign of a bump – at Charlie Van Straubenzee and Daisy Jenks' wedding in August, for example, she regularly held her clutch bag in front of her stomach. MORE: What titles will be used for Prince Harry and Meghan's children?

  • Theresa May has reneged on her Brexit promises at every turn – that’s why we need to march for a Final Say on Saturday
    News
    The Independent

    Theresa May has reneged on her Brexit promises at every turn – that’s why we need to march for a Final Say on Saturday

    On Wednesday European Union leaders gather for their summit in Brussels when the principle elements of the Brexit deal between the EU and the UK are supposed to be agreed, pending the Withdrawal Agreement being finalised at a special summit in mid-November. Prime minister Theresa May is due to address a working dinner of heads of government on the topic. There was some drama yesterday with unplanned talks between leading Brexiter, the Brexit secretary Dominic Raab and the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier, aimed at paving the way for the emergence of a deal in Brussels.

  • Strictly star Craig Revel Horwood slams claims judges ‘fix’ scores
    News
    Evening Standard

    Strictly star Craig Revel Horwood slams claims judges ‘fix’ scores

    Strictly Come Dancing judge Craig Revel Horwood has slammed claims the judges “fix” scores on the BBC ballroom show. The show has come under fire from fans and professional dancers who have accused the judges of influencing viewer votes. Former Strictly pro Ola Jordan suggested back in 2015 that the panel deliberately gave higher scores to certain contestants, something show bosses have denied.

  • When do the clocks change, why do we use GMT – and do we still need to?
    News
    The Telegraph

    When do the clocks change, why do we use GMT – and do we still need to?

    October has arrived; the leaves are turning, the temperatures are dropping and the mornings are gradually becoming lighter later.

  • Harry and Meghan may have breached etiquette by announcing baby news at Eugenie's wedding, says expert 
    News
    The Telegraph

    Harry and Meghan may have breached etiquette by announcing baby news at Eugenie's wedding, says expert 

    The Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s decision to announce their pregnancy to family and friends at Princess Eugenie’s wedding has been branded a “faux pas” by Britain’s leading etiquette expert.

  • Best grammar schools in 2018 according to GCSE league tables
    News
    The Telegraph

    Best grammar schools in 2018 according to GCSE league tables

    The Tiffin Girls' School in Kingston upon Thames is at the top of the tree when it comes to GCSE performance among grammar schools.

  • Royal family tree: where will Harry and Meghan's baby fit into the line of succession to the British throne?
    News
    The Telegraph

    Royal family tree: where will Harry and Meghan's baby fit into the line of succession to the British throne?

    The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will welcome their first child in spring 2019, Kensington Palace has announced.

  • Nicola Sturgeon calls for extension of Brexit transition period
    News
    The Guardian

    Nicola Sturgeon calls for extension of Brexit transition period

    Nicola Sturgeon said a longer transition period was ‘vital to avoid another cliff-edge scenario’. Nicola Sturgeon has called for an extension of the proposed 21-month Brexit transition period to give the UK government more time to negotiate a compromise with opposition parties, in order to deliver a “commonsense” future relationship with the EU. “If the last two years have shown us anything, it is surely that more time will inevitably be needed to agree the future relationship, and so being able to extend the transition period will be vital to avoid another cliff-edge scenario,” Scotland’s first minister said.

  • Black Friday 2018: Your guide to getting the best deals
    News
    The Independent

    Black Friday 2018: Your guide to getting the best deals

    The countdown to Black Friday, arguably the biggest shopping day of the year, has officially begun. A sales frenzy that has seen queues stretch into shopping centre car parks and fights break out over televisions in previous years, Black Friday is the perfect opportunity to get your hands on some of the best deals as retailers promise to slash prices on a wide range of products. Here’s your guide on how to get the very best deals this Black Friday.

  • UK eyed customs deal to avoid Northern Ireland Brexit backstop - EU sources
    News
    Reuters

    UK eyed customs deal to avoid Northern Ireland Brexit backstop - EU sources

    British negotiators urged the EU to accept assurances Britain would effectively stay in a customs union with the EU to avoid a hard border with Ireland and make a hotly contested "backstop" for Northern Ireland unnecessary, EU diplomats said on Monday. The EU position, the sources told Reuters, is that London's assurances of maintaining EU-UK customs links to avoid a hard border are mere aspirations, and cannot be sealed into treaty law before Britain leaves the bloc in March, hence the backstop.

  • Sign up for fashion updates from the Duchess of Sussex's Royal tour direct to your phone 
    News
    The Telegraph

    Sign up for fashion updates from the Duchess of Sussex's Royal tour direct to your phone 

    Stay up to date with exclusive fashion and style content from The Telegraph's fashion team as we bring you the inside track on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's royal tour via daily WhatsApp updates direct to your phone. 

  • NASA wants to send humans to Venus – here's why that's a brilliant idea
    News
    The Conversation

    NASA wants to send humans to Venus – here's why that's a brilliant idea

    The upper atmosphere of Venus is the most Earth-like extra-terrestrial location in the solar system. It could even host life.

  • If you’re having scary dreams, this might be the reason why
    News
    AOL.com

    If you’re having scary dreams, this might be the reason why

    With Halloween approaching, you may have been rewatching your favourite scary movies.

  • Sorry Hugh Grant! Richard Curtis wanted to cast Alan Rickman in Four Weddings and a Funeral
    News
    Evening Standard

    Sorry Hugh Grant! Richard Curtis wanted to cast Alan Rickman in Four Weddings and a Funeral

    Richard Curtis has told how his first choice for the lead role in Four Weddings and a Funeral was Alan Rickman – not Hugh Grant. The Love Actually writer opened up on the casting for the 1994 romantic comedy, admitting that despite finding Grant “annoying, too good-looking, and a bit posh”, he was outvoted on the decision. Speaking at Cheltenham Literary Festival, Curtis said: “We auditioned about 70 people for Hugh’s part.

  • Hiking the rooftop of Africa: Ethiopia's remote and beautiful Bale Mountains National Park
    News
    Evening Standard

    Hiking the rooftop of Africa: Ethiopia's remote and beautiful Bale Mountains National Park

    This is what life is like at the rooftop of Africa. Ethiopia’s Bale Mountains National Park is an otherworldly place, strewn with Willy Wonka-esque giant lobelia plants, moon-like rock formations and oceans of wild heather spread like anemones across the ground.

  • Insulation Blankets Inside of Roofless Panama City Home Damaged by Hurricane Michael
    Storyful

    Insulation Blankets Inside of Roofless Panama City Home Damaged by Hurricane Michael

    Video posted on October 14 shows a home in Panama City blanketed in insulation and debris after Hurricane Michael tore the roof off of the building. Instagram user @_onlyoneronte_ posted that she was moved to tears when she returned home to find destruction. “As I walked into my home I began to cry … there’s a big difference seeing your home physically than being told. And that’s only part of it. But I’m very thankful for being alive and to even have my family. Thank you Jesus!” Credit: @_onlyoneronte_ via Storyful

  • Fracking for shale gas begins in Lancashire amid protests
    News
    Sky News

    Fracking for shale gas begins in Lancashire amid protests

    Fracking for shale gas is under way in Lancashire amid protests against the controversial process. Energy firm Cuadrilla started hydraulic fracturing at the site in Little Plumpton on Monday, with the work set to continue for three months. A High Court appeal to stop the fracking was unsuccessful on Friday.

  • See how the Porsche 911 has evolved through the years
    motor1

    See how the Porsche 911 has evolved through the years

    Numbers don't lie: engines, chassis, tyres, brakes; all have changed so much over time.

  • News
    Sky News

    Same-sex penguin 'couple' nurturing egg together at Sydney aquarium

    The pair are said to have formed a bond at Sydney's Sea Life aquarium ahead of the 2018 breeding season. Staff gave them a dummy egg and after they showed strong nurturing skills, the pair of Gentoo penguins were handed a real egg to look after.

  • Rivals ARM and Intel make peace to secure Internet of Things
    News
    Business Insider UK

    Rivals ARM and Intel make peace to secure Internet of Things

    Rival semiconductor giants ARM and Intel have agreed to work together to manage networks of connected devices from both firms, clearing a major stumbling block to market growth of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT). Britain's ARM, a unit of Japan's Softbank Corp , said on Monday it had struck a strategic partnership with Intel to use common standards developed by Intel for managing IoT devices, connections and data. The IoT involves connecting simple chips that detect distance, motion, temperature, pressure and images to be used in an ever wider range of electronics such as lights, parking meters or refrigerators.

  • A halloumi bottomless brunch is coming to London
    News
    Evening Standard

    A halloumi bottomless brunch is coming to London

    A brand-new pop-up brunch will offer a halloumi-inspired menu with bottomless cocktails. Soho's Las Banderas will be serving brunch from Saturday October 22 until November 18 and the famous Cypriot cheese will be on the menu in six different ways. It will include a croque crypresea (like a croq monsieur but with halloumi and pork belly), a fondue with eggs and soldiers, a halloumi pitta, a halloumi aubergine pancake, a halloumi sandwich and halloumi ice cream with waffles and strawberries.

  • Hip and knee surgeons to use Apple Watch to monitor patients
    News
    Business Insider UK

    Hip and knee surgeons to use Apple Watch to monitor patients

    Four hospitals and more than a dozen other medical facilities in states including Massachusetts, California, Colorado and Michigan will receive stats including heart rate, steps taken and standing hours from patients waiting for or recovering from hip and knee replacement surgery. The multi-year study in collaboration with Apple Inc will allow doctors and their teams to gauge better how well patients are following prescribed physiotherapy or regimes ahead of surgery or recovering afterwards. More than a million knee and hip replacements occur every year in the United States, making them two of the most common surgeries Americans undergo.

  • Yemen facing the 'world's worst famine in 100 years' if fighting does not stop, warns the UN
    News
    The Independent

    Yemen facing the 'world's worst famine in 100 years' if fighting does not stop, warns the UN

    Yemen could face the “worst famine in the world in 100 years” if fighting continues, the United Nations has warned, as The Independent learned an official declaration of famine would likely be announced in just a few weeks. Lise Grande, the UN’s coordinator for Yemen, said that as many as 13 million civilians could die from starvation if a Saudi Arabia-led coalition does not halt its bombardment of the impoverished country. More than 10,00 people have already been killed in the fighting and 3 million internally displaced since the Gulf alliance began bombing the country in 2015 to oust the Shia Houthi rebels.

  • What is Cyber Security Month? How to perform Google's Security Checkup and stay safe online
    News
    The Independent

    What is Cyber Security Month? How to perform Google's Security Checkup and stay safe online

    If you've visited Google's homepage recently, you may have noticed a small note indicating that it is Cyber Security Month, together with a message encouraging you to perform a "quick Security Checkup". The awareness campaign, which first began in the US in 2004 before spreading to the EU in 2012, is part of a major effort to promote cyber security issues and educate the public on the dangers of online attacks. Cyber security has become an increasingly risky area in recent years, with the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2018 naming cyber attacks as the third top cause of global disruption over the next five years, behind natural disasters and catastrophic weather events.

  • Universal Credit Is 'Forcing Women Into Prostitution', Says Frank Field
    News
    HuffPost UK

    Universal Credit Is 'Forcing Women Into Prostitution', Says Frank Field

    Universal Credit is driving women into prostitution, the Work and Pensions