Flexible working hours improve workplace diversity

Advertising flexible working hours in job offers makes them more appealing to applicants, particularly women

A new study from Zurich Insurance says that women are 20% more likely to apply for senior roles if they offer flexible working arrangements.

The same study found that using gender-neutral language in job adverts helped in generating “significant change”.

It comes after Zurich, which employs 4,500 in the UK, began advertising part-time, job share or flexible options in all job vacancies last year. As a result, the company said the number of women hired for top roles had risen by 33%.

Women are more likely to be attracted to flexible working as they are more likely to have caring responsibilities. They may struggle to progress into more senior roles without the option of flexible working hours, and some even end up leaving the labour market.

Organisations need to use flexible working if they want to retain their female employees, says Nicole Sahin, Founder and CEO of Globalization Partners: “From recruitment to development, to women-friendly policies, this research reminds us about the importance of prioritising equality across every aspect of the organisation, to ensure women’s progress is accelerated further.

“After all, there is so much to gain from companies focusing on creating a diverse, inclusive culture that attracts talent of all genders, ages, sexualities, and ethnicities.

“Time and time again, research shows that organisations that have a high percentage of diversity financially outperform their competitors. I’ve seen first-hand the powerful results that occur when people with different perspectives work together. By striving for equal, inclusive, and diverse organisations, we can work towards a better, fairer world.”

Flexible working is just as important for men too, as the study also found that many more men also applied for roles when they offered flexible working options. Existing part-time employees also reported a stronger sense of “belonging” due to the shift, pointing to the fear that some workers have of being judged for not working full-time.

Creating a space for more women in leadership will benefit companies as a whole, says Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President at Skillsoft: “Not enough women are in leadership roles. It’s as simple as that. Organisations need to question whether they are removing gender discrimination from the workplace. It should be something that’s embedded into HR policies and company culture – something that’s addressed all year round, and it starts with the recruitment and promotion process. As this report highlights, women are more likely to apply for senior roles if they offer flexibility and gender-neutral language. 

“Companies should continue to identify talented women and look for the best career paths to accelerate their growth and impact, despite juggling work and home commitments. After all, gender equality isn’t just an issue for females in a business; it affects the whole organisation. Women bring a different dynamic, different thinking and different strategies – so why not have equal representation of genders when it comes to the boardroom?” 

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