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Flex Workplaces: Helping Women with Career and Beyond

Jul 19, 2017 7:03:00 AM / by Riia O'Donnell

women work.pngFor female job seekers, the option of flex work is their number two consideration when choosing a job or employer, according to a FairyGodBoss survey.

About 40 percent of women with children (25 percent without) look for a flex options. Their choice is second only to compensation. The study suggests that for women, flex work is sought-after for more than raising a family. As the gig economy continues to evolve, with 40 percent of workers expected to be remotes by 2020, this trend will continue to grow and yield benefits, particularly for women. 

The Caregiver Gap

Whether it’s the mommy track or other forces, women in the workplace are at a disadvantage when it comes to wages. According to Pew Research, younger women earn about 83 cents per dollar versus males; women 25 to 34 earn 90. Workplace interruptions could be an attribute of the gap. Time off to care for children or family members largely falls on women. To take the role of caregiver: 

  • 42 percent of women report using reduced work hours
  • 39 percent of women report taking significant time from their career
  • 27 percent report quitting their job
  • 13 percent report refusing a promotion

It’s believed that a woman’s lifetime earnings are reduced by 7 percent per child.

Timing Matters

Information from Bain and CEW 2015 noted about half of women at the junior- to middle-manager stage in their careers use flexible work arrangements primarily to care for their children. This time frame is just before a dramatic drop in workforce participation for women: which could account for the less than 15 percent of women represented in senior management-level positions. The research suggests flexible work during that time period is a “critical enabler to retaining women in the workforce.” 

Many companies are adding flexible work options to retain high potential women for the long term. As women take advantage of choice,  that 15 percent may increase in the future. 

Not Just for Babies

Caregiving isn’t the only reason for flex work. For some women, the 65 hour workweek doesn’t meet their need for work/life balance. The ability to work in a flexible environment, or on demand, is more appealing and they’re finding ways to make it a reality. For women, flexible work environments allow them to:

  • Keep their career on track, even if they eschew the daily grind
  • Keep their skill set current, even at reduced hours/days
  • Provide balance for work, caregiving, and personal life
  • Allow for a smoother transition back to full-time work

Double Layer Flex

In a 2013 survey by Working Mother, moms whose manager works from home are more likely to be satisfied with their job security (71 percent versus 65 percent) and the support they receive from their manager (71 percent versus 63 percent) than those with on-site managers. They report a 10 percent higher level of opportunity to develop their skills, and 6 percent higher satisfaction of how much their opinion counts in the workplace. The trend suggests flex for women by flex managers is bringing job satisfaction full circle.

And more than just workplace satisfaction, women are seeing the ability to work from home allows them to make better personal choices. In the same survey: 26 percent of women said they were able to find time to work out when they worked from home, versus 14 percent of site-workers. Time saved on the daily commute can limit the amount of pizza deliveries we rely on, as well. The time to make healthier choices could result in overall benefits for women, and their families, in the long term.

Inspired by Uninspiring Statistics

As the gig economy took wings for tech, it also has in other walks of life. There are freelance opportunities, and websites that service them, in almost every industry: legal, finance, marketing, and more. 

Allison Robinson read 43 percent of highly skilled women with children leave their job voluntarily at some point in their careers. She saw her own mother sacrifice her professional potential to raise her and her siblings, as well. After the birth of her first child, Robinson started The Mom Project: a web clearinghouse that matches women who seek flex with employers who value them. With over 10,000 members in the network (40 percent with Master’s degrees or higher), they fit women for project work, maternity, or permanent jobs. 

One member noted, “Keeping my skill-set relevant was crucial when leaving the professional world; the new skill set I continue to develop through projects has allowed me to grow myself & my brand.”

A recruiter from Razorfish-Sapient added:  "We believe the diversity of our workforce gives us a competitive advantage, so I was instantly drawn to the business model The Mom Project has created. Moms are talented, competent and hardworking professionals. Having kids doesn’t change that.”        

Robinson herself comments, “We’re committed to continuing to evolve our community to be a resource for women beyond just helping them find work. We know that there's a lot of other pain points for moms, whether they be focused on child care, health care or social engagement. That's something that we're really trying to focus on, understanding their evolving needs and how we can help address some of them.” 

As flex work continues to evolve, opportunities for women, whether with a single employer or as a freelancer, will grow with demand. The outcome for women:  better work/life balance, a way to keep career on track, and the potential to beat the wage gap at its own game.   

Read more best practices on creating and growing thriving company cultures.

Topics: Company Culture

Riia O'Donnell

Written by Riia O'Donnell

Riia O’Donnell has over 20 year’s hands-on experience in all aspects of the Human Resource function. Beginning as a recruiter, she grew to lead in all areas of HR, including employee training and development, legal compliance, benefits administration, compensation evaluation, and staff management. She has been a contributing writer for a wealth of HR, training, and small business websites for the past 7 years.

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