Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Women, the Workplace, and Companies’ Role in Gender Equality.

Following the recent Walmart lawsuit, the media has focused on women in the workplace today: their successes, their challenges, and their aspirations.

Women in the workplace have come so far since the days of their mothers and grandmothers.  That isn’t to say they work harder than their predecessors; they just have more choices about what they want to accomplish and how they spend their days.

Things aren’t perfect of course.  If absolute equality is the goal, we’re not there yet.  Whatever the reasons, women on average are paid less than men for the same jobs, and the farther up the corporate ladder you climb, the bigger the ratio of men to women.

When we think about the biggest reasons for this disparity, the word balance comes to mind.  Women today can have it all, and so they attempt to do so.  They want to follow their many passions to nurture their children and families; manage successful careers and financial self-sufficiency; enjoy rich friendships; and of course set aside time for hobbies and play.

Yet what could be accomplished with one partner working full-time and the other staying at home to manage the household cannot be accomplished (in the same fashion) with both parents working full time.

Often and understandably, women feel torn between their families and careers, and when forced to choose, many forfeit career opportunities that require them to sacrifice too much time with their children.

What’s the solution then?  We shouldn’t expect women to sacrifice instinctual desires to nurture their families in order to achieve their career aspirations.  Yet don’t they deserve an equal chance at a successful career and financial independence?

Perhaps the solution is reshaping the workforce.  After all, doesn’t the very nature of equality suggest that, if before, women worked full-time at home and men worked full-time outside the home, then now, women and men work part-time at home and part-time outside the home?

We are not suggesting a 20-hour workweek.  We’re saying talented women are doing an excellent job of balancing careers and families, and the companies who want to keep this talent will accordingly create more flexible, family-friendly cultures to reflect their employees’ values.  More importantly, women (and men) should continue what their mothers and grandmothers started, and demand these considerations in their push for equality.

No comments: