As indicated is the Assessment of Approaches to Advancing Women section of this report, a number of women find workplace flexibility to be a strong indicator of trust by senior leadership. The opportunity to have flexibility in work hours and workplace while being measured on results is highly sought. Women are looking for a blend of flexibility paired with a high bar for performance. In terms of overall ratings, workplace flexibility was rated as more important than parental and family leave.
Many fields, such as development, construction, and architecture, are highly visual, and the creative process is best served by collaborative, face-to-face interaction. The women interviewed in those fields fully appreciate the importance of face time with their colleagues; they also find they are most productive when they have the flexibility to determine their work hours. For parents of young children, leaving the workplace at 5 p.m. and restarting e-mail after bedtime is a common practice.
One senior-level woman explained why she values this flexibility: “Because of the nature of development, I make it a priority to be available to my team and my partners 24/7. I am leading very complex projects that demand immediate responsiveness. However, I am also able to attend my daughter’s performances at school because my boss knows I will get my work done.”
Workplace flexibility and flexible or generous maternal/parental/family/elder-care leave are more important to workers currently in their 20s, 30s, and 40s (gen X and millennials) than they are to baby boomers.
Workplaces that provide opportunities to fulfill demanding professional roles while raising a family received high marks. One case study in this report profiles the Pursley Friese Torgrimson law firm in Atlanta, where on-site nanny care is highly valued by those who are parents of young children, as well as those planning to have children.
Those interviewed also made a strong case for extending parental and family leave to men as well as women. Some described workplace cultures where is it more acceptable for women to take maternity leave and work part time following the birth of child than it is for men, even though fathers would like to take on more parenting responsibilities during this period as well.
One organization shared its updated family leave policy, which included both maternity and paternity leave for the first time, introducing it to the staff as a tangible sign that the workplace culture was shifting to support both men and women in parental roles. An employee who helped usher in this new policy stated, “During the roll-out of the new policy, all of us were very intentional about using the ‘family leave’ terminology. So far two senior men have taken family leave and have been transparent about this with the entire firm.”
Providing flexibility to those with family demands works best when it does not place an unfair burden on other colleagues. Making sure that tasks to be completed before or after hours do not consistently fall to those who do not have families is one way to be mindful of all.