In the Women in STEM mini-series, I laid out the realities STEM women are facing. Then I posted about some action steps that individuals can take to create a better working environment for STEM women. In this last post of the series, I look at what business can do as a whole.
As I stated in an earlier post, STEM women are feeling a lot of pressure to juggle the roles of careerist, mom, house manager, social secretary, and wife (or significant other.
Until that norm starts shifting, business must embrace flexible work arrangements for all its employees, but especially the women.
What exactly does flexible work arrangements mean?
Business Can Adopt a Remote Work Policy
Remote work simply means that all or part of the job is accomplished somewhere other than the office.
The pros and cons of remote work for businesses is laid out nicely in this article from Forbes. Among the pros are:
- increased motivation
- saving the company money
- increased productivity
- eliminating the rush-hour commute (my personal favorite!)
For STEM mothers, this can be a godsend. Instead of before-school and after-school programs needed solely so she can commute, she is now able to work the same hours without those programs.
Remote work also can allow mothers to volunteer in the classroom, knowing she can complete her work during other hours. Or pick up a sick child when the school calls.
Another way to implement remote work is ad-hoc. This means that remote work isn’t scheduled, per se, but can be utilized when necessary.
Where my husband works (he’s an engineer), they let all the people go home at lunch when a big snow storm was predicted for the afternoon. Their caveat? Attend all your meetings remotely. Nothing was cancelled, but the company allowed the flexibility to conduct all afternoon meetings from home.
Of course, the company has to invest in the technology required for this, but in today’s times, that isn’t asking a lot. A laptop, a smart phone and a site like Skype or GoToMeetings.com will do the trick.
My favorite benefit?
A recently released study found that businesses with sizable remote work forces tend to have higher numbers of female executives.
The study’s authors speculate that the reason the numbers are so high is because women at remote or mostly remote companies are more likely to be fairly evaluated.
“It’s because remote work requires companies to focus on the most important aspects of work—productivity, progress, results—rather than less important things like face time in the office, office politics, traditional notions of what leaders ‘look like’, popularity, likability, or hours spent at your desk,” they write.
And when there are more female executives, there are more role models for other women to follow, regardless of STEM career or not.
Business Can Adopt Flexible Work Schedules
For companies where remote work is a leap too far or the technical work requires a lab, there are alternative work schedules.
For example, where I work, a pay period is 10 working days. In that time frame I have to work 80 hours. I can work 10 traditional eight-hour days, or go on an alternate schedule of 8 ten-hour days, or 8 nine-hour days and 1 eight-hour day.
What this boils down to is either every Friday off, or every other Friday off.
As a mother, that gave me set days where I could volunteer in my children’s classes. It also gave me a day to schedule doctor appointments, or even do the grocery shopping without the kids.
Business Can Adopt Flexible Work Hours
This can mean a couple of different things.
On the one hand, it could be that your employees can start at whatever time they want and work for the required number of hours. However, each day would be the same.
Where I work, we can flex our start time from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. But you have to “pick and stick” with your time.
Another definition means that you can choose your start time but it can vary from day to day. This allows a working mom to take her turn carpooling the neighborhood kids to school on Monday. Yet also allows her to get to work an hour earlier on Tuesday through Friday.
The whole point is that women feel less pressure when they know they can make up the time and the work.
Adjusting your business to allow for flexible work arrangements is one way to retain STEM employees. Especially women who still are buckling under house management and child-rearing responsibilities as well.
Businesses have already attracted some of the best and brightest female minds to STEM.
If keeping them there means providing remote work, alternative work schedules and flexible work hours, surely that’s an investment we can all make.
Leaving you with this from the lighter side: “I love getting emails about fun, free activities that happen Tuesday at 10:15” said no working mom – ever!