Men who want to work flexibly to care for their families face high levels of discrimination, and are caught in a fault line that threatens Australia’s progress towards gender equality.
Data from the DCA-Suncorp Inclusion@Work Index, highlighted to coincide with Flexible Working Day on June 6, reveals the troubling attitudes and career consequences that affect men with caring responsibilities, showing that:
- Male carers are more likely to report having personally experienced discrimination in the past year (25%) than male non-carers (14%)
- They are also significantly more likely to disagree that they can be themselves at work (16% of male carers disagreed or strongly disagreed versus 10% of male non-carers)
- Male carers are also significantly more likely to disagree that they can progress at work (19% of male carers disagreed or strongly disagreed compared to 9% of male non-carers).
Diversity Council Australia’s CEO, Lisa Annese, an Ambassador for Flexible Working Day, said this has a significant impact on the progress of gender equality. “Men are the other piece of the puzzle when it comes to gender equality,” she said. “Increasingly organisations are looking for ways to provide flexibility for women, however men with caring responsibilities, who also want to work flexibly, suffer stigma and a lack of respect. Men and women face consequences for their career progression.”
She also had a message for fellow employers on Flexible Working Day. “While a lot of great work is being done in Australia, we really haven’t figured out how both men and women can be full people: with a personal and professional life. I’d use this day to commit to that idea, and to bringing about cultural change because flexible work benefits everyone.”
Suncorp, sponsor of the Inclusion@Work Index, highlights how flexibility for men and women benefits the individual and the wider organisation.
Amanda Revis, Suncorp’s Chief People Experience Officer, said: “Gender equality is a multi-faceted issue; addressing outdated attitudes towards men and flexible work is critical in progressing towards true gender equality. It is vital that businesses not only offer flexibility, but also strive to overcome any stigma that holds back anyone in the workforce. Suncorp offers a broad range of flexible work practices, and importantly we encourage both men and women to take up these options. Having male champions for gender equality who role-model the importance of being involved in solutions is fundamental.
“Flexibility – where and when we work, and the way we work – is a key enabler of inclusion. 86% of our employees were positive about their ability to work flexibly to suit their family and personal responsibilities, and this was considered equally important to men and women. People appreciate being part of a great team and achieving strong results, while being able to focus on their life priorities, such as health and wellbeing, carers’ responsibilities and study.”
Earlier this year, DCA showcased the benefits of flexible working in its Flexibility Myth Buster, which revealed that mainstreaming the practice can deliver improved engagement, sustainability and employer branding, among other measures of success.
“Employers can view flexible work as an inconvenience, as offering little benefit to the organisation,” Lisa Annese said. “As we’ve demonstrated, that’s not true. Until this message gets through, flexible work will be on the margins rather than mainstream.”