9 Jul 2013 11:16am

Flexible working boosts female board aspirations

Women lower their career expectations in companies that don’t offer flexible working, according to a new study

A report from non-profit organisation Catalyst, The Great Debate: Flexibility vs Face Time, concluded that women working in companies that didn’t currently offer flexi-time were less likely to aspire to C-Suite roles than those working in companies which did.

The study spoke to 725 “high-potential” employees wordwide. The authors found that 81% of those who took part currently worked at companies that offered some sort of flexible working arrangement (FWA), suggesting flexible working is widely offered by companies of different sizes and sectors.

In companies with FWAs in place, 83% of women interviewed aspired to the C-Suite level in the future in their career, compared with just 54% in companies without FWA access. Women were twice as likely as their male colleagues to lower expectations if the company did not offer FWAs, the report concluded.

Catalyst said the study debunks the myth that women use flexible work options more than men, saying that their research suggests high-potential employees of all ages, with and without children, thought flexible work options were important.

The study also found that men are as likely as women to take advantage of flexible working.

However, male employees were less likely to use telecommuting or remote working options in taking up FWAs, instead choosing options such as flexi-time which didn't impact on time physically spent with their colleagues.

Overall the study concluded that FWAs make business sense, and are essential in attracting the best candidates for the highest roles. A lack of flexible working arrangements has “serious consequences for top talent, especially women”, it warned.

Allyson Zimmermann, director at Catalyst Europe, said,"It's a myth that flexible work arrangements are only of interest to women with children.

"Our new research shows it matters to both sexes and men are as likely as women to use certain types of flexible working arrangements. What is worrying, however, is women's aspirations to top leadership posts will downsize if flexible options are not available. It's essential therefore that organisations who want to attract and keep top talent must be willing to offer greater flexibility."

Helen Roxburgh


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