Media Appearances

A brief summary of our work around empowering women at work

How a focus on flexibility is a small cultural step for potentially big wins

Our Chief Scientist of Workplace Culture, Jessica Kriegel, was recently quoted in this HR Dive article about women exiting the workforce. Here’s the context for Kriegel’s reference in the article:

They also found that 97% of women don’t feel they can ask for flexible work arrangements for fear that it will affect their careers; and 95% believe it’s unlikely that their workload would adjust should they be granted a flexible schedule. 

That this number is so high “means a lot of these women are working within cultures based on fear and scarcity, and probably cultures that have an implicit or explicit ‘pregnancy tax,’ i.e. the assumption that because you chose to have children, you’re somehow now less committed to working hard,” said Jessica Kriegel, chief scientist of workplace culture at Culture Partners. “If you have the flexibility and support, most new moms will run through a wall for that employer. The gap is still about employers not leaning in and embracing that.”

We had previously conducted original research on the impact of empowering women inside an organization, and Jessica had appeared on MSNBC to discuss some of that research, as well as additional “status of women at work” research done by The Skimm:

These discussions can sometimes seem binary — men are struggling with modern work too, but in different ways, and the status of women at work faces several challenges that men do not always explicitly face.

In 2021, there was some troubling data out of Wharton indicating that about 2.3 million women have exited the U.S. labor force since the pandemic began, compared with about 1.8 million men, according to government data. As a result, female participation in the workforce has dropped to 57%, a level not seen since 1988.

There is sometimes a belief that “no one wants to work anymore” — which would apply to both genders — but in our work with clients, we’ve found that to not be true. Many people want to work, and many companies are facing talent shortages in key areas. What leaders seem to be struggling with right now is people being perceived as not knowing how to work, i.e. the pace of their work and their ability to deliver on time-sensitive projects.

Still, most released data since COVID indicates that women are exiting the workforce at higher levels than men. (Some data indicates it’s pretty close; other releases seem to show a significantly higher rate of female exit from jobs.) This is coded in many biases and perceptions, as Jessica notes above in the MSNBC clip and you can also find in our original research.

While the “caregiver narrative” or “pregnancy tax” explains a lot of the exit, what’s missing from cultures where women flee is typically flexibility. A culture with strong flexibility — work when you can and where you can, so long as you’re productive and goals are being met — generally attracts better talent in general, but especially top female talent, as they may have caregiver roles for aging parents or younger children (often simultaneously).

There are still some jobs that need to absolutely be done in-person. But, with the scale of tech and the nature of a lot of knowledge work, many can be done remotely, or be done in-person for part a time block and remotely for other parts, etc. It is possible to allow more flexibility in employment — again, not in every industry or vertical, but more than we allow.

The shift to flexibility is an immediate cultural step you can take to empower women at work.

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