If you asked your boss for a more flexible work schedule, would your request be granted?
The answer, finds a new study, may depend on your gender and your position.
Researchers at the Yale School of Management, the University of Texas-Austin and Harvard Business School say that managers are more likely to give flextime to men in high-status jobs for career-advancement opportunities.
But women in similar positions aren't likely to be granted such a request, whether they make it for career reasons or for family demands, the study finds.
At the same time, results show that men in low-status jobs are very likely to get flextime granted if they cite family care demands, much more than women in similar jobs.
That surprised researcher Victoria Brescoll, who says it's women in low-status jobs who are often single mothers who need flexible arrangements more. (A recent Pew Research Center study finds that 40% of all households with children under the age of 18 are supported primarily or solely by mothers, compared with 11% in 1960.)
Brescoll says she was also taken aback by upper-tier women being stonewalled on any flextime request and upper-tier men being granted flextime only if it's seen as being for career reasons. She adds she does believe there is some "basic sexism" on the part of managers refusing flextime requests from women, and there needs to be awareness that women are being penalized.
Ken Matos, senior director of employment research and practice for the Families and Work Institute, says that he finds the results of the study fascinating because it shows the workplace is "very much about maintaining a certain status quo."
Matos says his organization's research shows that while higher status men are more likely to get access to flexibility, they were much less likely to ask for it.
Part of this may be because other research has shown men feel they won't be seen as taking their career seriously if they ask for flextime and may even slow their career trajectory if they take time off to help care for children, for example.
Studies on the "motherhood penalty" have shown that mothers are seen as being less competent and committed to their jobs, but men may be viewed even more negatively because they're seen as less masculine if they take time away to care for children.
In the Pew report, those social pressures were in evidence when just over half of respondents reported that children are better off if their moms stay home with the kids, while only 8% agree that children are better off if their fathers stay home.
Brescoll, assistant professor of organizational behavior at Yale, says that women may be underestimating the negative consequences (read more here)