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Breaking Gender Stereotypes: Flexibility And Inclusivity

17th Jul 2023

Gender stereotypes pose a persistent challenge in the workplace to this day, and while some progress is being made, roles and expectations continue to be influenced by gender. 

One particular aspect that has gained attraction in recent years is flexibility. Traditionally, flexibility in the workplace has been associated with women, often around part-time or flexible work arrangements to accommodate caregiving and parental responsibilities. Breaking these gender stereotypes surrounding flexibility is crucial for creating a more inclusive and equitable work environment. 

Challenging these preconceived notions and promoting flexibility for all, regardless of gender, will allow us to dismantle barriers that have hindered progress and perpetuated inequality. 

Defining inclusivity and its relevance in breaking gender stereotypes

Inclusivity plays a crucial role in challenging and dismantling the deeply ingrained societal norms that perpetuate gender bias and inequality. 

Promoting inclusivity celebrates diverse identities, experiences, and perspectives that exist beyond traditional gender binaries and creates spaces where everyone can thrive and contribute to a more equitable work environment. 

It enables us to challenge the rigid and limiting expectations placed on individuals based on assigned genders, allowing for a more expansive understanding of gender roles and possibilities. 

The absence of inclusivity and the failure to recognise the issues will only continue to exacerbate the divide in dismantling gender stereotypes. 

The consequences of gender stereotypes at work 

Gender stereotypes in the workplace have consequences that impact individuals, workplaces and society itself. 

These stereotypes not only reinforce discriminatory practices but limit opportunities for personal and professional growth. Let’s take a look at what some of these are:

Limited career opportunities

Gender stereotypes often pigeonhole individuals into specific roles or industries based on societal expectations. Men are often favoured for leadership positions, while women are steered towards nurturing or administrative roles. This limits career advancement opportunities for both genders, perpetuating a lack of diversity and impacting innovation.

Reinforces wage disparity

Gender stereotypes contribute to the persistent wage gap between men and women. Women are often undervalued and underpaid, with their contributions and skills deemed less valuable or significant than their male counterparts. This wage disparity not only affects financial well-being but reinforces the cycle of gender inequality.

Creates a glass ceiling effect

Gender stereotypes reinforce the glass ceiling effect, where women face invisible barriers preventing them from reaching higher-level positions. The stereotypes around women's competence, leadership style, and commitment to work undermine their chances of advancing to leadership roles.

Work-life imbalance

Traditional gender roles and stereotypes place disproportionate caregiving responsibilities on women. As a result, women often face challenges in achieving work-life balance, which can negatively impact their careers and overall well-being. 

Men, on the other hand, may face societal pressure and stigmatisation when seeking work-life balance, as they are expected to prioritise work over family. These stereotypes don’t work for anyone, regardless of gender. 

To gain further insight we carried out a LinkedIn poll to find out the public opinion towards the primary obstacles that prevent men from taking up the opportunity to work flexibly. 

Let's take a look at the results:

Among the 500+ respondents, a significant majority highlighted that the primary barrier for men in embracing workplace flexibility is the perceived negative impact on their careers. This was closely followed by concerns related to stigma and stereotypes associated with men seeking flexible work arrangements.

It’s clear that gender stereotypes are holding everyone back. 

Impacts mental and emotional health

Gender stereotypes at work can increase stress, anxiety, and mental health issues for both men and women. For instance, men may experience pressure to conform to societal expectations of being "strong" and suppressing emotions, which can lead to emotional distress. 

Women, on the other hand, may face imposter syndrome or feelings of inadequacy due to the constant scrutiny and biases they encounter.

Creates a lack of diversity and inclusion 

Gender stereotypes perpetuate a lack of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. From reinforcing rigid gender roles, companies miss out on the benefits of diverse perspectives, ideas, and experiences. This lack of diversity hampers innovation, creativity, and problem-solving capabilities.
Addressing and dismantling these gender stereotypes is essential for creating an environment that values individuals based on their skills, qualifications, and contributions rather than their gender. 

Workplaces can dismantle stereotypes through flexibility 

Flexibility in the workplace plays a significant role in dismantling gender stereotypes. Here's how workplaces can achieve this:

Challenge traditional gender roles

Providing flexible work arrangements, such as remote work, flexible hours, or job-sharing options, and implementing inclusive benefits like enhanced parental leave and improved maternity and paternity policies, workplaces have the opportunity to challenge long-standing gender roles that have limited men and women to predetermined tasks and responsibilities.

Alexander Walsh, Chief Executive Office at Howells 

“We recently welcomed our second daughter into the world.

However, as many will know, statutory paternity leave is pitiful. Two weeks off at a significant pay cut for most (total ≈£150 a week gross), to support your young family at its most vulnerable and destabilising time, doesn’t cut it. For our first daughter we used a chunk of annual leave to make it work, cutting into summer/Christmas quotas, and removing important respite just as the stakes ramp up. Statutory maternity leave is in a worse state.

For better or worse all latitude for support is with individual companies, many of whom will measure welfare as an immediate cost vs medium term investment.

With this in mind, last year at Howells we tore up our staff handbook and rewrote it with the welfare of the individual at its heart - although within the confines of a small business. A part of that was extending our maternity and paternity offer to a flexible 4 months and 4 weeks, respectively, on full pay.

Far from a Scandinavian utopian offer, but hugely welcome as I write to you now from the trenches! Both in the British Army and in business, one tenant holds very true, "If you look after your people, they will look after you".

Equal opportunities for advancement

Implementing flexibility in career progression can help break gender stereotypes by ensuring that both men and women have equal opportunities to advance in their careers. This includes accommodating career breaks and offering leadership development programs that support individuals at different life stages and circumstances.

Work-life integration

Flexibility enables individuals to integrate their work and personal lives more seamlessly. Allowing individuals to fulfil their family or caregiving responsibilities without compromising their career aspirations. This helps challenge the stereotype that certain roles or positions are incompatible with family commitments.

Reduce stigma and bias

Flexibility can help combat the stigma and bias associated with individuals who seek work-life balance or take on non-traditional roles. When workplaces embrace and normalise flexibility, it sends a message that it is acceptable for both men and women to prioritise personal well-being and family responsibilities. This contributes to a culture of acceptance and inclusivity, reducing the negative judgments or assumptions based on gender roles.

Role modelling

Positive role models can shift societal perceptions by normalising the idea of women in leadership positions or men in traditionally female-dominated fields. Their presence challenges stereotypes and helps broaden society's understanding of gender roles and capabilities. And by excelling in non-traditional roles, it demonstrates that abilities and skills are what should determine career paths, as opposed to gender.

Through visibility and influence, role models contribute to a cultural shift in workplace dynamics. And as more individuals challenge gender stereotypes and achieve success, it becomes increasingly difficult to uphold outdated biases and discriminatory practices.


Role models ultimately serve as a source of inspiration for individuals who may feel constrained by societal expectations. When others see someone who defies gender stereotypes and achieves success, it encourages them to aspire to reach their full potential, regardless of their gender.

What’s incredibly important, is that the men in your leadership team participate in flexible working policies as well as the women. 
Inclusivity and flexibility go hand in hand and have the power to dismantle gender stereotypes through challenging traditional roles, promoting equal opportunities, integrating work and personal life and reducing stigma and bias. Embracing and implementing flexible practices allows workplaces to contribute to a more equitable and inclusive society that values individuals based on their abilities and aspirations rather than conforming to rigid gender expectations.