Struggling to attract more women leaders? Try flexible work arrangements

Companies today are still struggling to attract and develop more female leaders. Although women make up more than half of the U.S. labor force, according to the U.S. Census of 2010, they are underrepresented in leadership roles at all levels.[i]

It turns out that high potential woman across industries value flexible work arrangements that allow them to better manage their work/life integration throughout their careers and life cycle. The Harvard Business Review reported in the 2005 article, “Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success,” that:

64% of the women we surveyed cite flexible work arrangements as being either extremely or very important to them. In fact, by a considerable margin, highly qualified women find flexibility more important than compensation; only 42% say that “earning a lot of money” is an important motivator.  In our focus groups, we heard women use terms like “nirvana” and “the golden ring” to describe employment arrangements that allow them to flex their workdays, their workweeks and their careers.”[ii]

Research from the Pew Research Center in 2013 showed similar attitudes, particularly among women who were parents. “When it comes to what they value most in a job, working fathers place more importance on having a high-paying job, while working mothers are more concerned with having a flexible schedule.”[iii]

Not only does providing flexible work arrangements improve an employer’s chances of attracting and retaining talented female employees, it is an incredible benefit for all employees! The average teleworker today is 49 years old, male or female, a college graduate, works for a company with 100 or more employees and earns $58,000 a year.[iv]  Flexible work arrangements consistently improve employee productivity, morale, and recruiting efficiencies while reducing a company’s real estate costs, turnover and absenteeism.[v]

Today’s new hires expect flexibility

Many of today’s job seekers are screening potential employers based on their flexible work practices. In 2014, Indeed Hiring Lab, which tracks and analyzes global employment trends, saw a preference for flexible work across generations. It warned employers that flexible work arrangements will become even more important as the labor market tightens. “Search terms associated with flexible work are consistently among the top ones used by job seekers of any age. This will become increasingly important as companies compete for talent.”[vi]

The right kind of career development and mentoring are critical for developing female leaders, but first companies need be able to hire the women who will be come those leaders. The evidence for flexible work arrangements is irrefutable! Work flexibility enables high potential women to continue their careers while managing the demands of childrearing and elder care.

What has been your company’s experience?

Victor Assad is a strategic human resources consultant and coach who works with key decision makers and human resources leaders on talent management, accelerating change, leadership development, and other strategic initiatives, such as mergers and acquisitions, strategy implementation, and flexible workplace. You can learn more about the benefits of flexible work place for both companies and employees by reading his white paper, “Form Follows Function: Flexible work arrangements and tailored office design improve productivity, morale and your ability to attract and retain critical workers!”  from his website at

[i] Eytan Hirsh. (June 7, 2012) “Companies Struggle to Develop Female Leaders”. Society of Human Resource Management. Retrieved from

[ii] “Off-Ramps and On-Ramps: Keeping Talented Women on the Road to Success” by Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Carolyn Buck Luce, Harvard Business Review, March 2005.

[iii] Kim Parker and Wendy Wang (March 14, 2013) “Modern Parenthood: Roles of Moms and Dads Converge as They Balance Work and Family.” Pew Research Center Social and Demographic Trends. Retrieved from

[iv] Alina Tugend (March 9, 2014) “The Rise of the Telecommuter. Studies show out-of-office work, through still ill-defined, can lead to better, happier employees.” The New York Times.

[v] Kate Lister and Tom Harnish, (2010) Results-Based Management. The Key to Unlocking Talent, Increasing Productivity. Global Workplace Analytics. PDF downloaded from

[vi] Tara Sinclair (January 22, 2015) “Wake-Up Call. Millennial, Gen X, and Baby Boomer Candidates Aren’t Really So Different”. Retrieved from’t-really-so-different/.

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