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February 7 2017

Innovation: Employment Agencies that Foster Workplace Flexibility for Women

Charlotte Hays

The New York Times is discovering something that IWF has been in favor of (and practiced) for years: workplace flexibility for women.

In a story headlined "How to Close the Gender Gap: Let Employees Control Their Schedules," the Times notes:

The main reason for the gender gaps at work — why women are paid less, why they’re less likely to reach the top levels of companies, and why they’re more likely to stop working after having children — is employers’ expectation that people spend long hours at their desks, research has shown.

It’s especially difficult for women because they have disproportionate responsibility for caregiving.

Flexibility regarding the time and place that work gets done would go a long way toward closing the gaps, economists say. Yet when people ask for it, especially parents, they can be penalized in pay and promotions. Social scientists call it the flexibility stigma, and it’s the reason that even when companies offer such policies, they’re not widely used.

A new job search company, Werk, is trying to address the problem by negotiating for flexibility with employers before posting jobs, so employees don’t have to.

We would rephrase that first paragraph: the gender wage gap shrinks when you factor in choices women make (such as to take time out of the work force to bring up children). But we have long been in favor of workplaces providing the kind of flexibility women need to remain in the work force. And we're delighted the Times is taking note of this sensible approach to women and work: 

Seventy percent of working mothers say having a flexible work schedule is extremely important to them, according to a Pew survey. So do 48 percent of working fathers.

Workplace flexibility reduces turnover and work-family conflict, according to much of the research, including a study by 10 researchers from seven universities published in December. Yet when people get flexible work arrangements, they’re generally isolated cases — for longtime employees whom companies trust and don’t want to lose. The employers using Werk say they get access to highly skilled employees who might not otherwise apply.

Werk shows how the private sector can solve problems and make it easier for women to balance life and work--let's just hope this remains a private sector innovation and that nobody gets the bright idea that government needs to mandate how these arrangements work--or werk.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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