Women are 20% more likely to apply for senior roles if they offer flexible hours, a government-backed study for Zurich insurance suggests.
Using gender-neutral language in job adverts also generated “significant change”, it found.
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 it said the number of women hired for top roles had risen by 33%.
The research – which was carried out by the Behavioural Insights Team, a government-backed think tank – found women have struggled to progress in their careers at Zurich in the past.
It found there had been a lack of applications from women for senior roles, many of which had not been available on a flexible basis.
Female employees reported this had made them less likely to apply.
“We’ve seen hugely encouraging results, simply by adding six words to our job adverts [offering flexible working arrangements],” said Steve Collinson, Zurich’s head of HR.
“By offering roles that fit flexibly around family life, employers could open the floodgates to a much wider pool of untapped talent.
“This will also help women progress into higher paid jobs whilst fitting other commitments around their careers,” he added.
According to the research, women are more likely to have caring responsibilities and may struggle to progress into more senior roles if they do not offer flexible working options. Some even end up leaving the labour market.
The study, which looked at Zurich job vacancies between March 2019 and February 2020, found many more men also applied for roles when they offered flexible working options, suggesting the issue was “just as important” for them.
Existing part-time employees also reported a stronger sense of “belonging” due to the shift, pointing to the fear some workers have of being judged for not working full-time.
Minister for Women Baroness Berridge said: “The benefits of flexible working have really been emphasised during recent months.
“We want to see more employers embracing practices such as working from home and returners programmes, which can have a positive impact for both men and women.”