By Caroline Wilbert for Divine Caroline
It’s not just a myth. Women who make six figures are balancing work and life through flexible work arrangements, according to a study from the Simmons School of Management, a business school for women in Boston that offers both MBA programs and executive education.
The 2006 report examines the history of work roles in the US and bases some of its findings on a survey of 400 women at a Simmons management leadership conference. The average woman in the survey earns $116,000 a year, is 43 years old and has spent more than 20 years in the workforce. Most respondents (86 percent) earn more than half of their household incomes.
With those kinds of stats, one might figure these women are not the types to negotiate schedules around kids or work from home, right? Well, that is where the myth-busting comes in. More than 90 percent say they have used some sort of flexible work arrangement during their careers.
Other highlights from the study:
First, a brief history lesson. The traditional work paradigm, called “work is primary,” was developed after World War II. It worked well for upper middle class white men who could put work first because their wives were home taking care of the family. These guys gave their loyalty in exchange for a lifetime of security. Today, both family dynamics and the economic picture have changed. After all, no matter how loyal you are to a company, you can’t count on spending your entire career there. A rise in corporate bankruptcies and outsourcing has contributed to the change, according the report.
The new paradigm -- which the study’s authors call “free agent” -- started getting buzz in the early 1980s. Women are the leaders of the paradigm shift, negotiating flexible work arrangements to define the terms of their employment. Perhaps not surprisingly, there has been a backlash, with women being criticized for not wanting to work as hard as men. Derogatory terms such as “mommy track,” which means taking a less ambitious career path to have more time at home, have sprung up.
An interesting finding: A “flexible work arrangement” doesn’t have to mean part-time. Almost half the women in the survey say they have used so-called FWAs to continue working full time. “Whether they negotiate boundaries around the job, telecommute, stay in a job that permits balance or take a lateral move instead of a promotion, women are trying to ‘make work work',” the report says.
A look at the future: “Work is primary” stereotypes need to go, the report argues. Commitment is often still judged by outdated measures such as whose car is in the parking lot at 7 a.m. “Organizations must adapt to today’s global labor force and marketplace as well as to technology’s interconnectedness and speed,” the report concludes. “That entails shifting to a work culture where results instead of ‘face time,’ and productivity instead of ‘billable hours,’ are rewarded. Women, in their pursuit of career self-agency through flexible work arrangements, have been leading this shift.”