Why Women Still Can’t Have It All

Princeton University professor and former State Department appointee Anne-Marie Slaughter set off a firestorm of debate over the summer with her insightful and thought-provoking piece in The Atlantic about the tough road for working moms. Slaughter wrote about her own personal struggles as a working mom with a high-powered career, and offered a handful of ways the work world — if they value women in the workplace — can change to retain women, to include flexible hours. A few gems from the article:

  • “Losing smart and motivated women not only diminishes a company’s talent pool; it also reduces the return on its investment in training and mentoring. In trying to address these issues, some firms are finding out that women’s ways of working may just be better ways of working, for employees and clients alike.”
  • “A seminal study of 527 U.S. companies, published in the Academy of Management Journal in 2000, suggests that “organizations with more extensive work-family policies have higher perceived firm-level performance” among their industry peers.”
  • “In 2011, a study on flexibility in the workplace by Ellen Galinsky, Kelly Sakai, and Tyler Wigton of the Families and Work Institute showed that increased flexibility correlates positively with job engagement, job satisfaction, employee retention, and employee health.”

Thank you, Anne-Marie, for sparking the conversation. We’re also looking forward to Sheryl Sandberg’s upcoming book on working women, “Lean In.”

NYT: In Google’s Inner Circle, a Falling Number of Women

Google execs used algorithms to determine where along the work spectrum they were losing women, and identified a few, to include the interview process, promotions, and maternity leave. From the article: “Google’s spreadsheets, for example, showed that some women who applied for jobs did not make it past the phone interview. The reason was that the women did not flaunt their achievements, so interviewers judged them unaccomplished.” So Google required more details from interviewers, and more women were hired. They also improved their maternity leave package from three partially paid months to five months off at full pay. Does it get more awesome than that?! Well, maybe in Denmark 🙂

When the Work-Life Scales Are Unequal

You might wonder why we are including this piece, which talks about how flex policies seem to benefit people with kids more than others. If you work in a flexible environment, it’s good food for thought, and probably something to be sensitive to if you are a parent. What we love about the story is that the emphasis is on parents with flexible schedules- moms and dads – not just women. Some companies have designed their flex policies specifically to include everyone:

(Per NYT) At Ernst & Young the policy is that everyone, no matter their age or life circumstances, has equal claims on flexibility — there is no work-life balance trump card, says Karyn L. Twaronite, Americas inclusiveness officer at Ernst & Young in New York. While implementation varies slightly by practice area and group, employees, whether they play in a weekly basketball league or need to pick up their children from school, can mold their schedules, to a certain degree, to fit their personal lives.

“When we first gave this a shot back in the 1990s, it did have the tendency to build resentment on some teams, but we moved away from fixing it as a ‘woman problem’ to fixing the environment,” Ms. Twaronite says. “We also didn’t want working parents to feel embarrassed about taking time off.”

The article offers up a host of opinions on who wins and loses in flex programs. Probably our favorite paragraph is the last one.

(Per NYT) Mr. Murphy says there are times when he has to pick up the slack between 5 and 7 p.m. because his colleague leaves at 5. But it’s a two-way street; his colleague covers for Mr. Murphy, too. “I don’t feel like I’m working more because of someone’s else’s flexibility,” he says, “I just feel like I’m working differently.”

Yes, we concur. Let’s all work differently!

They Work Long Hours, but What About Results?

The headline says it all. Harvard Business School lecturer and Brookings Institution senior fellow Robert Pozen advocates working smarter by limiting meetings, writing faster, and reducing reading. As we blogged about earlier this year, he argues that managers that reward time spent at the office over efficiency are living in the past, “harking back to the standardized nature of work on an assembly line.” Hear, hear!

Attract and Keep A-Players with Nonfinancial Rewards

What’s the number one thing employees want? Flexibility, per Harvard Business Review and the Center for Talent Innovation (CTI). Number two? Recognition. It’s the simple things!

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