There has never been a better time to be a woman. Statistics show as of 2014, there were almost 9.1 million female-owned businesses in the United States, generating more than $1.4 trillion (yes, with a “T”) in revenue. Young American women are 33 percent more likely than their male peers to have earned a college degree by age 27. And around the world, women hold several of the highest offices in the land. All of this proves that women are master multi-taskers. Not only can we hold down jobs and build strong careers, we can take care of a multitude of responsibilities and assorted unpaid tasks. However, striking a work-life balance can be easier said than done.
Sometimes the responsibilities outside the workplace weigh heavily on our time and halt our forward momentum. Taking the impact of these tasks and family responsibilities into account is crucial when it comes to building a workplace that works for women. Household and family demands won’t disappear. Even if you have help or a partner, your parents will age, your children need you and your kitchen still get dirty. Meeting these demands continues to fall more on women, which leads them to step back from advancement opportunities, or leave the workforce completely.
The key is flexibility. People with adaptable work environments tend to have healthier habits and be more productive and efficient when they work. They also have time for both self-improvement and family and friends. Flexibility doesn’t only benefit women’s work performance. Research has looked at more subjective areas affected by schedule flexibility, including people’s happiness and satisfaction. Studies show that when people can choose to do things like take their kids to school, sleep in or help their spouse that they’ll have better relationships, a better quality of life, and more happiness with their employment. The Sloan Center on Aging and Work at Boston College cites additional benefits of flexible work environments, which include less stress and burnout, improved work-life and work-family balance, and less negative spillover from work to home and from home to work.
Business leaders must increase workplace flexibility in order to retain top talent. While some have stepped in line with the progress being made on family leave policies, others are looking at flexible scheduling or remote work places as options. As a result, progressive employers are finding that women can meet changing demands and maintain both their professional and personal responsibilities.
When we create a workplace that is truly woman, man, AND family-friendly, we move closer to equality. We have a greater impact when we work together. Tackling the issue of workplace flexibility is key to making leadership positions more appealing to women. It is time to lead with our sisters and push the doors to equal opportunity wide open and transform our lives and the world.