February 21 2013

Businesses Are Already Changing the Workplace for Women

Sabrina Schaeffer

My recent writings on the wage gap, FMLA, and “protective” workplace legislation has sparked debate in social media. One follower on Twitter responded, “Having government doing their part, Women their part, as well as Companies their will make us all win the game.”

Well, here’s something to consider:

Government already did its part when it passed the Equal Rights Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect against base, gender discrimination. Women business leaders like Sheryl Sandberg have helped teach women how they can better advocate for themselves. And we know that lots of businesses encourage flexible work environments, including telecommuting, shared jobs, and part-time employment. (Also, see Womenomics for many more examples.)

But earlier this week, the Wall Street Journal reported that consulting-giant “McKinsey & Co. wants its moms back.” As the WSJ recognizes, “the issue of lost women workers” – generally because they leave to start a family – is a problem for many companies, especially in high-skilled professions where employers clearly view their workers as an investment.

Understanding that women are an extremely valuable part of the workforce, McKinsey is looking for ways to bring these women back. And, as the article points out, the consulting firm wants to remain competitive. Other finance and consulting firms like Bain & Co., Boston Consulting Group, and Goldman Sachs all have “women projects” to help keep the lines of communication open with female employees who leave the work place, as well as to communicate with women workers about flexible work options.

The article reports that at Bain, “more than 100 women, most of them mothers, have returned to the firm since 2000….The firm says more than 80% of its female partners have taken advantage of flextime.”

 It’s one more example of how businesses already recognize the value women bring to the workplace. Let’s see if businesses and individuals can respond to changing employee demands and keep government out of it.

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