Despite media buzz to the contrary, employers do value women, and there’s evidence all around that they’re making great strides in major diversity initiatives and leadership training. Still, too few women are actually at the top of organizations. To be fair, though, this is not only due to long-held institutional gender biases that won’t change overnight. It’s also because most women have more than one job, and they’re not aiming for the C-suite at all.
Whether or not women want to be CEOs, it’s important to keep them working. To increase retention, workplaces simply need to be more flexible. Employers experience a talent drain when women leave the workforce, and it’s expensive to on-board their replacements. Numerous studies show that diversity boosts the bottom line. And career exits have a big cost for women too: Every year out of the workforce, they forfeit up to four times their compensation.
There are three facts we all know that relate to women and workplace flexibility.
- Women are caregivers who need flexibility to blend work and life. Though millennial men may be helping more around the house and pitching in more with kids, the lion’s share of caregiving—for children and aging parents—is still on the shoulders of women.
- The flexibility “needs” of women—especially mothers—are misconstrued. There’s a perception that women think they should get special treatment—but in fact women recognize that flexibility benefits workers of all genders and drives productivity up.
- It’s difficult to institutionalize flexibility to be fair to not only to all women, but to all employees. (It’s a challenge, but not an impossibility.)
A fourth fact about women and workplace flexibility is not as commonly discussed: women (and men too) are not asking for flexibility in the right way....
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