Magazine article The CPA Journal

Career Consequences of Flexible Work Arrangements: The Daddy Track

Magazine article The CPA Journal

Career Consequences of Flexible Work Arrangements: The Daddy Track

Article excerpt

Since the late 1980s, many employers have been actively promoting various forms of flexible work arrangements (FWA), which can encompass reduced hours and workdays, telecommuting, and nonstandard start and stop times. Initially, these programs were targeted at retaining talented female professionals, specifically working mothers. A number of surveys in popular publications such as Working Mother and Money magazines have captured a growing trend of young men entering professional careers with increased expectations about the amount of workplace flexibility that will be available to them. An increasing number of men have wives who are employed fulltime and expect to share child-care responsibilities with their working spouses.

Can companies take what they have learned about female workers using flexible work arrangements and apply it equally to men? Research has shown that FWAs improve the retention and job satisfaction of female professionals. But if employers want to more fully reap the benefits of FWAs by also making them attractive to men, they should be aware that men's experience of FWAs, and coworkers' perceptions of male FWA participants, are different.

With the sponsorship of the AICPA, the authors have conducted research on the organizational and individual factors influencing participation in FWAs, and on how participation in a FWA can negatively affect peers' and superiors' perceptions of FWA professionals. This research included responses from over 400 public accounting professionals from one international, two national, and one regional public accounting firm. The results of these two studies highlighted an important fact: FWAs are not equal for men and women.

Sharing the Workload

There seems to be agreement that women still tend to carry the bulk of childcare responsibilities. Working women are more likely to seek accommodations in their schedules. Nonetheless, our research suggests that men are no longer "just going off to work" and leaving behind all the domestic juggling at home. In response to our question about what factors affect the career progression of male and female audit managers balancing work and family under traditional and flexible schedules, one male respondent asked, "Why is it always the woman who is expected to alter her schedule?" Supporting the assertion that men today in dual-income families are expected to share more equally in family responsibilities, a large number of respondents indicated that "burnout" and the inability to juggle work and family was a potential problem for both male and female audit managers. Yet, in an acknowledgement of the difficulties men face, one married male respondent said a male audit manager with children and a working spouse but no FWA "is a time bomb ... Either he will leave, work less, or end up getting divorced." But how viable a choice is a FWA for men wanting to stay in a challenging career while carving out more time for their families?

Workplace Perception and Career Advancement

The research clearly indicates different attitudes toward men and women that choose a FWA. When asked about a hypothetical male and female audit manager on a FWA, comments indicated that FWAs cany a professional stigma four times higher for a male manager than a female manager. Specific comments made about the male FWA audit manager included: "stigma of male being committed to child- rearing/domestic issues," "individuals who made partner under a regime of 2,700-3,000 hours annually are very unlikely to promote [a male] who works less," and "[the male manager] should find satisfaction as a career senior manager." On the other hand, many of the responses to the hypothetical female manager's description cited "participation in the firm's work/family balance program" as a positive or career-enhancing move. These responses indicate gender differences in the acceptability of using a FWA that extend even to expectations about what makes "good partner material. …

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