More than 10 years ago, when I was pregnant with my first child, the publishing company I worked for was sold, and the new owners decided to offer a telecommuting option to our staff. We were among the first of our kind, long before PDAs and the widespread availability of high-speed Internet access.
The implications of telecommuting have been tremendous for me as a mother of two (daughter Calli is now 10½ and son Kieran is 3½). I have had the chance to be available for my children, and I have a level of flexibility that working in an office just doesn't afford. I have committed to my company for longer than the average editor. And I have worked long and hard — perhaps harder than I would have if I had been in an office — because my office is always just one room away, day and night.
Fortunately, telecommuting — and flexible work arrangements in general — are far less rare now than they were back then, as writer Irene Korn reveals in her article, “Making It Work,” on page 28. In fact, a study by Meeting Professionals International's Women's Leadership Initiative found that nearly two-thirds of the female meeting planners who responded have adopted a non-9-to-5 approach in an effort to maintain equilibrium between personal and professional responsibilities.
More companies are finally listening to the needs of these women and offering them flex time, telecommuting, comp time, or even just the ability to attend a field trip that means so much to their children. Because of that, the people we interviewed are content and committed, and they have remained in their jobs longer than average.
Meanwhile, companies with workaholic cultures (one woman spoke of being made to feel “dirty” when she took sick time because her children were ill) are the real losers. Women raising children will go elsewhere. And many younger women — Generation X'ers who have watched their mothers struggle to do it all — will have no part of companies that don't offer work-life benefits.
As the article also reveals, most companies — family-friendly or not — still have a long way to go when it comes to salary equity between men and women and equal advancement opportunities. That same MPI survey reported a compensation gender gap of 29 percent, with the average base salary for male meeting planners coming in at $73,833 compared to $57,394 for female planners. The great news is that there has been an unquestionable shift in perceptions: No longer are working mothers considered unreliable or disloyal. In fact, handled with care, they just might be a company's greatest asset.
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