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November 08, 2013 Practice Points

Flexible Working Arrangements Are Necessary to Retain Talented Women

By Allison Kernisky

Some companies have recently announced that they have eliminated or scaled back their flexible working arrangements (FWAs) in favor of increased face time. However, a recent study by Catalyst shows that FWAs are more popular than ever and are a key component of recruiting and retaining talented employees, especially women. Catalyst surveyed 726 MBA graduates working full-time around the world and found that not only were FWAs favored by high potential women, but were key drivers of ambition.

The study, titled The Great Debate: Flexibility vs. Face Time, Busting the Myths Behind Flexible Work Arrangements, endeavored to dispel some of the myths surrounding FWAs, including that FWAs are the exception at companies. Eighty-one percent of respondents reported that their current employer offers some type of FWA, and that only young entry-level employees value FWAs when in fact the study found that personnel at all levels value FWAs. The study also revealed that while women tend to place more value in FWAs than men (67 percent compared to 46 percent), both genders use FWAs.

The most interesting finding in the study was the effect that access to FWAs had on women’s ambition to rise in their careers. Eighty-three percent of women with access to FWAs aspired to the C-Suite, compared to only 54 percent of women without access to FWAs. The study attributes this 30 percent drop to the perception of support and the level of trust the respondents felt from their employers. The aspirations of men to the executive suite were roughly the same whether they had access to FWAs or not––94 percent versus 85 percent.

Examples of FWAs that support women include:

• Flexible arrival and departure time

• Flexible schedule

• Telecommuting

• Compressed work week

• Reduced work/ part time

• Job sharing

In many instances, according to the study, men and women used FWAs at the same rate.  For example, 34 percent of both women and men have used flexible arrival and departure time; 32 percent of women and 30 percent of men frequently used flex time; and 7 percent of both men and women were likely to use a compressed work week. In an article on The, Anna Beninger, co-author of the study along with Nancy M. Carter, summarized the important role FWAs play in the workplace: “[FWAs] are not just about convenience. It’s about advancement and an organization’s ability to maximize its talent pool.”

Keywords: woman advocate, litigation, flexible work arrangements

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