What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Flexibility

What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Flexibility

What Works for Women at Work: Answers to Common Questions – Flexibility


I’m fortunate to work at a company that offers flexible working arrangements, and since the birth of my first child, I’ve worked from home part-time. I’m still a committed employee producing high caliber work, but I’m being given less challenging assignments, and my supervisor no longer discusses the possibility of advancement with me. I really value my flexibility, but I’m frustrated. I know I’m capable of more. What can I do?

Your situation is unfair but unfortunately not unique. Studies indicate that while many American organizations have adopted flexible work policies, women and men who use them are commonly penalized. Use of flexible work arrangements often is associated with wage penalties, lower performance evaluations, and fewer promotions. New Girls’ Network founder Joan C. Williams coined the term “flexibility stigma” to describe this phenomenon.

The problem is that when women use flexible work options, their supervisors are prompted to view them through the frame of motherhood, triggering the strongest form of gender bias: the Maternal Wall. Motherhood status alone brands women as less devoted employees, and when a professional woman chooses a flexible work arrangement, she is often viewed as a good mother – but a less desirable worker.

Here’s how smart, savvy women have gotten ahead while taking advantage of flexible work arrangements:

  • “If you’re in that time of your life when you’re having children, you’re spending a fair amount of time at home. Networks will help you stay connected to what’s going on in the office.”
  • “In a perfect world, once or twice a month you should make an effort to find the most meaningful networking or whatever it is event and go to it.”
  • “Be honest about what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and how you’re going to get the work done, and then do the work you can so that it can’t be questioned. Be upfront about it.”
It’s important to optimize the face time that you do have. Maintain regular communication with your colleagues, and be present for the meetings and events that will be the most valuable for you.

Also, take proactive steps to counter the assumption that you have lost your drive. Talk with your supervisor about your goals, and stress that you still have concrete ambitions. Make sure your colleagues know about your plans, and don’t be afraid to clarify your short- and long-term career objectives.

Have a question of your own? Then Ask the New Girls!

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