Breaking flex work stigma and closing the gender pay gap

Diversity Council Australia is calling on workplaces to address the gender flex gap this Equal Pay Day as new research highlights the gendered impacts of flex work stigma.

Friday 25 August is Equal Pay Day, a date chosen by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) to mark the additional days from the end of financial year women would have to work to earn the same average pay as men. This year it was an additional 56 days.

Despite newly released ABS data showing the gender pay gap has narrowed by another 0.3% to a national pay gap of 13% (read more about the new figure here), Australian workplaces still have a long way to go in achieving gender equality.

While research shows the leading driver of the gender pay gap is gender discrimination, findings from DCA’s upcoming 2023 Inclusion@Work report point to another aspect that needs addressing – the role of flexible working conditions.

Early data from the report revealed only 57% of men reported using flexible work options in the past year compared with 72% of women, representing a gender flex gap of 15% – a figure that has remained stagnant since 2019.

Flexible working conditions are an important part of workforce participation for those with caring responsibilities, which disproportionately fall to women. Our most recent She’s Price(d)less report showed caring for family and workforce participation account for an estimated 33% of the gender pay gap, making it the second most prominent cause.

An increased uptake in men accessing flex work to take on more caring duties is a crucial step in achieving pay parity.

According to the 2023 data, the flex work gap appears to be driven by a stigma on men accessing flexible work options typically viewed as “feminine” or associated with care work.

While all flex workers are more likely to face discrimination and harassment at work than those who don’t, men who accessed flex work in the form of reduced hours were more likely to face negative treatment than women (37% vs 24%).

Given this type of flex is far more likely to be accessed by women (38% of women compared with 21% of men) and carers, it seems a gendered stigma on men taking on caring responsibilities is driving their experience of discrimination and harassment.

According to DCA CEO Lisa Annese, Australian workplaces must do more to destigmatise accessing flexible working conditions and encourage men to “share the care”.

“Better access to flexible working conditions don’t only make workplaces more accessible for carers, they also help to encourage men to take on more caring duties, which we know disproportionately fall to women,” Annese said.

“In order to address Australia’s gender pay gap, we need to address the gender flex gap.

“Workplaces play a significant role in addressing the gendered stigma on flex work and encouraging their employees to share the care.”

Media Contact: Ali Coulton |


Diversity Council Australia’s Inclusion@Work Index findings come from a nationally representative sample of 3000 respondents, all working in Australia. The 2023 data included above comes from our upcoming Inclusion@Work Index which will be released in October. The upcoming report will be DCA’s fourth Inclusion@Work Index, which started in 2017 and provides national benchmarks for Australian workplaces on diversity and inclusion.

Findings summary:

Australia’s gender flex gap sits at 15%, which means:

  • In 2023, 72% of women reported using one or more forms of flexible work options in the 12 months prior to the Index, compared to 57% of men reporting use of flexible work options in the same period.

The use of flexible working conditions is still predominantly used by carers:

  • 3 in 4 (74%) of those with caring responsibilities reporting use of flexible working options, compared with 58% of workers without caring responsibilities.

Flex workers experience a consistent level of exclusion post-pandemic:

  • More than 1 in 4 (29%) flex workers reported experiencing discrimination and/or harassment at work in 2023, significantly higher than workers not accessing flexible options (20%)
  • This remains relatively unchanged compared to the 31% of flex workers reporting experience of discrimination and/or harassment in 2019.

Some flex work options are more gendered than others:

  • Men and women reported similar use of flex options when it came to where they work, with 15% of women and 17% of men reporting they used this type of flex
  • However, the difference was more stark when it came to flexibility in when they work, with 43% of women accessing flex in the form of when they worked, compared to 35% of men
  • The difference was even more stark when it came to accessing flexibility in the form of reduced hours, with 38% of women accessing this type of flex and only 21% of men.

Men also faced increased levels of discrimination when they accessed flexibility options more commonly used by women:

  • 1 in 3 (37%) men who accessed flex in the form of reduced hours reported experiencing discrimination and/or harassment at work
  • This is significantly higher compared with men not accessing this type of flex (22%), women accessing the same (24%), or women not accessing reduced hours flex (28%).

About DCA: Diversity Council Australia is the independent not-for-profit peak body leading diversity and inclusion in the workplace. We provide unique research, inspiring events and programs, curated resources and expert advice across all diversity dimensions to a community of over 1,200 member organisations. Our member organisations are estimated to employ nearly two million Australians, representing up to 20% of the workforce.