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Traditional Gender Roles Mean Men and Women Value Different Aspects of Work

Traditional gender roles mean that women still do more of the childcare and housekeeping than men in many households; this leads to women valuing flexibility at work more than men

A company that helps independent contractors manage their work with different customers surveyed its clients to understand what motivates them.

There were some interesting splits along gender lines, according to NBC News: “MBO Partners asked independent workers whether or not they agreed with several statements about their motivations and priorities for working independently. While roughly 74% of women said flexibility is more important than making the most money, fewer than 60% of men agreed — and this gap has been widening. When MBO asked the question just two years earlier, 63% of men and 68% of women prioritized flexibility over money.

“The survey also found that the number of women who said that controlling their own schedule was more important than making the most money was 11 percentage points higher than the number of men who said the same. … Although 57% of female respondents said they don’t like answering to a boss and nearly as many said they like being their own boss, 69% each of men said the same — another split that has widened in just two years.”

According to people quoted in the NBC article, “outdated gender roles are to blame” for these differences, surmising that women value flexibility over pay to a large extent because women still bear most of the burden when it comes to caregiving and other responsibilities in the home, and the delicate act of balancing these responsibilities with work as a regular employee eventually becomes too difficult for many professional women.

Men Want Money; Women Want Flexibility

This may be why rigid schedules that don’t allow for much flexibility are seen as a major cause of the gender pay gap, and why women often drop out of the workforce permanently or put their careers on hold for many years after having children. Their employers simply don’t support them as working parents by giving them the flexibility they need, while their male partners don’t take on enough housekeeping and childcare responsibilities to make the balancing act easier for women (and may find themselves punished at work if they do).

This is backed up by CEB analysis. Women and men are mostly attracted to the same qualities in an employer (compensation, work-life balance, and stability), but differ in how much importance they assign to each of these. For example, 47% of women say compensation is a main driver of attraction, while 43% say work-life balance is. By contrast, 49% of men say compensation is a key attractor, against only 37% who say the same of work-life balance. It’s not hard to see the connection between these differences and the roles and expectations women take on at home.

CEB analysis shows that women consider a flexible time schedule the most likely thing to help them progress in their careers. One way a company has used flexibility to boost women’s retention and representation in leadership is Telstra’s “All Roles Flex” approach. Telstra’s head of diversity and inclusion, Troy Roderick, explains how the firm increased women’s share of promotions and boosted female employees’ engagement scores by introducing flexibility throughout the organization.


More On…

  • A Strong Workforce Requires More Women

    Download this research to learn more about the effect gender-balanced leadership can have, and how to overcome the barriers to employing more senior women.

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