Companies making flex-time respectable

… by portraying it as “macho”? A radical idea! If all employees are likely to demand flexible hours and paid family leave, then women are less likely to be penalized for taking advantage of these policies. The Wall Street Journal (subscription req’d) reports today that some companies, including the Manhattan accounting firm Ernst & Young, are attempting to do just that.

Some employers are trying to overcome a perceived stigma on flexible work schedules — often viewed as a concession to women — by redefining the issue as a quality-of-life concern for everyone. The approach is gaining traction, especially in the male-dominated financial-services sector, where employers have long struggled to retain and promote women.

While flex-time and other family-friendly policies have long been touted as a way for women to get ahead in the corporate world, they often carry the “mommy track” stigma, making many women reluctant to take advantage of these options.

In a survey of 2,443 women college graduates released by her center and the Harvard Business Review, 35% of respondents thought they would be penalized for taking advantage of their employer’s work-life policies. … about two-thirds of professional women who stop working would stay if they had a “recognized and respectable” way to scale back. [...]
“We want to make flexibility gender-neutral, so everyone wants to take advantage,” says Maryella Gockel, the firm’s flexibility-strategy leader.

Ernst & Young — which has a flexibility-strategy leader and amenities like on-site child care — is leaps and bounds ahead of many other firms that still lack basic flex-time options. But their thinking on this, that employees (regardless of gender) should create schedules, hours and career tracks to fit their personal needs, might have a positive effect on the way other companies (even those that are significantly smaller) approach work-life policies. After all, this isn’t just some feminist group releasing yet another report calling for women-friendly workplaces. It’s a huge company that’s already instituting these changes and attempting to do so in a gender-neutral fashion, which in my opinion makes it a much more concrete step in the right direction.
The Center for Work-Life Law, which recently published the media-analysis report debunking the “growing trend” of women opting out, has loads of resources on workplace flexibility for men and women.

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9 Comments

  1. Heather Nan
    Posted December 11, 2006 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Now all we need is health-care, day-care, and public transportation and we’ll be like a real grown up country ;)

  2. Posted December 11, 2006 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    Great, it can only be respectable if men do it. Thanks a lot, dudes.

  3. choiceonearth
    Posted December 11, 2006 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Yah, the “mommy track” prejudice is really offensive. However, that’s something that’s going to take a long time to change, I think. I remember when I was in grad school, a post-doc in my lab had to take three weeks leave because his wife had a Caesarian and was unable to care for the new baby and their other small child. I remember whenever any of the guys found out why the poor man was out, they would all get this look on there face like… paternity leave, that’s for sissies.
    If this sort of workplace reform can make it more acceptable for men to spend more time at home/with their families, then it’ll be a win on more than one front.

  4. SDstuck
    Posted December 11, 2006 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I hope this takes off. We have always shared tasks based on who is better at it or who can make the time.
    It is not always guys doing the oppressing. I had a female boss deride me for taking personal time off to deal with some personal financial business dealings. I was asked why my husband was not doing these tasks, in the context that it was “his job”. You know the whole man makes all the decisions thing.

  5. Arizona
    Posted March 13, 2007 at 2:17 am | Permalink

    This concept is definitely catching on! Best Buy has been recongized in numerous national media for implementing CultureRx’s Results-Only Work Environment: ROWE. It’s the ultimate workplace flexibility program open to ALL regardless of marital status, gender, age, dependents, etc. Employees are free to do whatever, whenever as long as the work gets done. How that happens is completely up to them.

  6. Posted November 12, 2007 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    Women work

    Kalpana Margabandhu, Director, Websphere Development, IBM, said maintaining women in almost all verticals has become a business imperative to understand the needs of a wider customer base that include a large number of women.
    To you and me, that means…

  7. CrystalPM
    Posted July 2, 2009 at 11:37 pm | Permalink

    that’s something that’s going to take a long time to change, I think. I remember when I was in grad school, a post-doc in my lab had to take three weeks leave because his wife had a Caesarian and was unable to care for the new baby and their other small child.
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  8. sunzheng
    Posted July 3, 2009 at 2:42 am | Permalink
  9. GamesOnline
    Posted November 8, 2009 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Great, it can only be respectable if men do it.free online games

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