• Lifestyle

Women Pioneering Flexible Work Arrangements

I sat in on the Freelancers Union Focus Group Lunch on Tuesday for a really dynamic discussion. I noted that more than half the attendees were women, and many of them talked about working independently in balance with family responsibilities. The Simmons School of Management, a women's business school in Boston, recently surveyed (PDF) 400 high-level professional women and found over 90% had taken advantage of some sort of flexible working arrangement during their careers, including telecommuting and flexible hours as well as freelancing. Moreover, most managed to maintain high incomes while doing so. Mary Shapiro, coauthor of the study, commented on the blog Broadsheet: "Many women do choose to be freelancers in order to get the flexibility that their employers wouldn't give them. As a result, they don't have benefits, life insurance, etc. The lack of flexibility continues to exist in most organizations because, exactly as you say, they subscribe to the "Victorian notion of paid work having to be rigidly supervised in an office." As you said, "the only thing that will work is a fundamental change in how we perceive work and employment." That is exactly our point. Employers need to stop equating "face time" with commitment, and measuring "billable hours" instead of productivity. "Our research supported our belief that women are (and have been for some time) at the leading edge of trying to get employers to change that notion of work and career." Perhaps women, of necessity, really are the mothers of invention.

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