The Work Routine That Could Help Close the Gender Gap

The Work Routine That Could Help Close the Gender Gap
by Werk
Photos Joe Kathrina | September 09, 2016
The roles that women play in the workforce have radically changed over the past fifty years, but our work environments have not.
Increasingly, many modern women want the opportunity to build dream careers and parent their children. But women are expected to work like they don’t have children, and raise their children like they don’t have a job.

This means that talented, hardworking women are too often overstressed and under-performing. And many—facing challenging schedules and unrealistic child care costs—quit, or are forced onto the career mommy-track, where future opportunities for advancements in compensation or professional growth are all but foreclosed.

These are significant, systemic challenges many working moms face. But there’s a surprisingly easy fix for us all (mothers, mothers-to-be, or never mothers): flexibility.

Women can “have it all” (or at least, have more) as long as they have the power to reasonably set their own schedules. Working mothers are exceptionally strategic about managing their work and life goals, if empowered to do so. Modern women are hungry for empowerment and autonomy to run their jobs efficiently and with excellence. So why are we still talking about flexibility like it’s an office perk? Flexibility is a strategic solution to the systemic disenfranchisement of women from leadership, not a lifestyle bonus.

Modern flexibility sits at the intersection of employer trust and employee ambition. It’s the permission to work unconventionally—even just a little—to make getting home by 5PM a reasonable proposition. But even more fundamental than that, modern flexibility is about a new employment agreement where results and performance are prioritized way ahead of hours logged at an office desk.

Give yourself permission to pursue caregiving with the same commitment and purpose as you pursue your job, no questions asked. Tuck your kids in at bedtime every night and remain eligible for that next promotion. We have all the tools to achieve our professional and life goals. Smart phone always in reach. Emails after bedtime. Google Drive, cloud computing, Slack—all resources that make it easier for women to work smarter, from anywhere, whenever she’s needed (within reason).

This is the future of the women’s movement: a world where caregiving and ambition are valued equally. But here’s the thing: no one is going to make these changes for us. It’s on us to set new cultural norms around flexibility and to give a voice to our real need to be available to our families. According to a recent Bain study, women believe that “creating working models that support men and women with family responsibilities” is the most important way to overcome “barriers to women’s progression into leadership roles.” Can you hear us cheering?

Flexibility is the future, and we need to build a productive conversation about how flexible schedules serve both our needs and the needs of the company.

Nodding? So how do you make this happen for you?
Women can “have it all” (or at least, have more) as long as they have the power to reasonably set their own schedules.

4 Steps to Making Your Career Flexible

1. Find an Employer Who Is Open to Flexibility

Obvious as it is, flexibility is a major workplace innovation that disrupts nearly a century of workplace cultural norms and many employers are just not there yet. We need access to positions that are both career-building and flexible. No more mommy-track. Teach the market that flexibility is the future by choosing an employer who is actively committed solving—not just talking about—gender diversity and the retention and advancement of women.

2. Show Your Employer That Flexibility Will Make You a Better Employee 

Changing mindsets is about honesty, empathy, preparedness and results. Approach your employer and say, “I am committed to our work together.  Having a flexible schedule will help produce even better results for our team.” Be direct, not defensive, by making a specific proposal, such as, “I’d like to leave the office each day at 5pm unless there is an important meeting or project that conflicts. I will actively monitor my email in the hours I am away.” Then prove it. Ask for a review in three months, and show your team evidence that flexibility has boosted your productivity and morale.

3. Just Leave

Walk out like you own the joint. It’s always uncomfortable to be the trailblazer. But when it comes to enforcing your flexible schedule, walk out the door knowing that you aren’t just setting expectations for yourself.  ou’re paving the way for every woman at your office, and all the women who come after you.  

4. Get Others To Follow

Get the conversation started: both men and women. Encourage your peers to be clear their needs are and have friendly, respectful conversations with both men and women about their families. Help lead conversations at your own workplace about flexibility policies. Help your employer understand that flexibility is strategic and effective, not just a perk.  It’s all about the first person that follows the leader that actually tips the dominoes towards change. (Watch Derek Sivers “How to Start a Movement” Ted Talk for inspiration!)  
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Do you work a flex job? Share your experiences with us in the comments.