Contrary to numerous reports implying that women are increasingly “opting out” of the workforce to attend to families, a study of professional women released Jan. 16 by the Boston-based Simmons School of Management finds that a great majority are instead negotiating more flexible work arrangements.
Introducing a career model that seeks to benefit both genders, the study found that the bulk of the professional women (90 percent) had used some kind of flexible work arrangement at some point in their careers so that they could remain employed full-time while managing their various responsibilities.
“Women are leading the way in how all employees in the future will take more control over managing their careers. They are shifting the career paradigm,” said Professor Mary Shapiro of the Simmons School of Management in Boston, lead study author, in a statement.
The study also found that, contrary to popular belief, these women who had asked for flexible work arrangements did not experience decreased earning power. More than 85 percent of the women studied reported financial success, citing that they were responsible for at least half of their household incomes.
In their negotiations, the women studied were able to ensure flexible work arrangements, from telecommuting, flexible hours and a limitation on traveling or evening work at various points in their careers to be able to continue working while managing their busy lives.
While previous studies had said that 37 percent of women had voluntarily stopped working to raise families, this current study found this to be the case for less than one-fifth (18 percent) of respondents.
Shapiro argued that media reports of large number of professional women choosing to leave the working world are simply not true.
“Its a myth—based on a handful of anecdotes in the popular press about white, high-income women—that women are opting out of the workforce in droves,” said Shapiro.
“Its also notable that the women in our study who used flexible work arrangements did not sacrifice financial success, when compared to those who didnt use flexible work options.”
With more than 60 percent of the women surveyed saying they would be more loyal and “go the extra mile” for an organization that offered flexible work arrangements, Shapiro noted that organizations can benefit directly from embracing flexible arrangements.
“Theres a workforce shortage on the horizon,” said Shapiro, “and flexible work arrangements may be the main strategic advance in the coming decades in attracting and retaining male and female essential talent.”