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Sunday, January 23, 2005

Work differently

Slowly there are companies and universities reaching out to their female employees trying to make things work, when job and family don't mix harmoniously in the blender of life.

Whether the academics commenting on previous posts deny it or not, women are succeeding and finding a way to do it. It is just not widespread enough. CBS aired a great story last October on women who left high-powered careers in order to be home raising their kids, and others who are making part-time careers meaningful. The story quotes a Harvard Business School survey that found that just 38 percent of its female graduates in their child-raising years were in the workplace full-time. HBS Dean Kim Clark told CBS that the survey's findings won't deter him from accepting women into Harvard. He said companies are going to have to change. And one of Clark's goals as dean "is to convince the business world it's in their interest to come up with creative solutions to keep women in (the workplace, in some capacity)."

The cover story of the January/February issue of Mothering Magazine is entitled, "Off To Work We Go - Baby In Tow!" Yes, some companies are making arrangements to allow women to bring baby to work. The February issue of Ladies' Home Journal has a cover story called, "You're hired! Why companies are competing for moms." Bringing babies to work, allowing moms to take up to five years of unpaid leave, and offering perks like on-site daycare, helps moms (and dads) find a work-life balance.

These family-friendly options are the minority, by far. But it is encouraging to see that there are some companies making sweeping changes to keep moms at work.

Companies who have rigid policies will need to change to stay competitive. Nicole, who works for a high-tech firm in Southern California, can't understand why her employer is being so inflexible. Nicole has a four-month-old baby and is supposed to head back to her job next week. She's trying to work an arrangement that would allow her to do her current job from home. "The fact that they don't let me do the job from (home) is ridiculous," she said. "I never see the clients and all the work is done via email." She added: "I email my boss who sits four feet from me."

Her employer has offered her a position that is a step down with a significant cut in pay. It would be 30 hours a week, with half of those at home. The catch: It's only for three months. Then it's back to the old, full-time job at the office. The no telecommuting policy has nothing to do with whether or not work gets done. According to Nicole, her boss grabbed a football and said, "You can't be part of the team if you're somewhere else."

With that attitude, you're going to have an office full of quarterbacks, without any ambitious receivers ready to take the ball and run.

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