The boss may be more likely to grant a request from dad to work from home so he can care for kids than a similar request from mom, according to new research that refers to the bias as the "fatherhood bonus."
"Dads were more likely than Moms to be granted a work from home request, and they also were deemed to be more likable," according to Quartz coverage of the study conducted by Furman University assistant professor of sociology Christin Munsch. The study was presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco.
Called "Flexible Work, Flexible Penalties: The Effect of Gender, Childcare and Type of Request on the Flexibility Bias," the study looked at 646 Americans ages 18 to 65. Each was shown a transcript and told it was a real conversation between an employee and a human resource representative. In some cases, an employee asked for the flexibility to come in early and leave early three days a week or to work from home twice a week. The gender of the employee varied, as did the reason for the request, which sometimes involved child care.
After reading the transcript, the participants were asked whether they would grant the request and how likable, committed and dependable they found the employee to be. When the request came from a man and involved child care, nearly 70 percent said they would be "likely" or "very likely" to grant the request, compared to about 57 percent for women's requests.
Almost a quarter found the man "extremely likable," compared to 3 percent of the women. While 2.7 percent deemed tha man "not at all" or "not very" committed, 15.5 percent felt that way about the woman making the request.
In the Quartz article, Vickie Elmer wrote: "Men who work full-time while caring for their children may receive what professor Kenneth Kolb called the 'progressive merit badge,' while women still largely face the 'motherhood penalty.’ ”
"These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work," Munsch said in a written statement. "Today, we think of women's responsibilities as including paid labor and domestic obligations, but we still regard breadwinning as men's primary responsibility and we feel grateful if men contribute in the realm of childcare or other household tasks."
Requests for flexible schedules related to child care were viewed as more supportable than requests for other reasons, regardless of the gender of the individual making the request.
The press release accompanying the research noted that "while feminists and work-family scholars have championed flexible work options as a way to promote gender equality and as a remedy for work-family conflict, Munsch said that her research 'shows that we should be hesitant in assuming this is effective.’ ” Still, she believes employers should not get rid of flex schedules, "but rather they should be cognizant of their biases …."
"Men, in fact, already regularly telecommute more than women do, the Families and Work Institute and others have found, despite the assumption that moms are the ones who do it," according to Washington Post's Brigid Schulte.
She wrote that this study "would seem to contradict other social science that found that men who ask for flexibility are punished more severely than women." Earlier research said men wanting extended family leave receive fewer promotions and great assignments, among other things. Munsch emphasized, though, that the men in her study were still putting in full-time hours, just in a different schedule.