"These results demonstrate how cultural notions of parenting influence perceptions of people who request flexible work," said study author Christin Munsch, an assistant professor of sociology at Furman University in Greenville, S.C.
Researchers asked nearly 650 people, aged 18 to 65, to read transcripts of what they were told were conversations between a human resources official and an employee. Some of the employees requested a flexible work arrangement.
These arrangements included asking to work at home in some cases, or to come in early and leave early three days a week in order to care for their children. After reading the transcripts, the participants were asked how likely they were to grant the request and also to evaluate the employee.
When employees asked to work from home for childcare-related reasons, nearly 70 percent of participants said they would be "very likely" or "likely" to approve the request if it was made by a man. But only about 57 percent said they would grant the request when made by a woman.
In these cases, 24 percent of participants said men who made such a request were "extremely likeable," while only 3 percent of participants said women who made such a request were "extremely likeable."
About 15 percent of participants said women who made such a request were "not at all" or "not very" committed to their jobs, while only about 3 percent of participants said the same about men who made such a request.
The study was scheduled for presentation Monday at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco. Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
"Today, we think of women's responsibilities as including paid labor and domestic obligations, but we still regard breadwinning as men's primary responsibility and we feel grateful if men contribute in the realm of childcare or to other household tasks," Munsch said in an association news release.
The study also found that both women and men who requested greater work flexibility for childcare-related reasons were viewed more favorably than those who made such requests for other reasons, such as reducing their commute time.
The University of Southern California Center for Work & Family Life has more about family and work balance.