October 8, 2007

News & Opinion: Ask 8cr! - Off-Ramps and On-Ramps

By: Aaron Schleicher @ 4:30 PM – Filed under: Management & Workplace Culture

Welcome to "Ask 8cr!" - a new section of our blog where we've created a forum to find out what kinds of issues and challenges people are having in the workplace. We then take these issues and apply a business book we feel offers a viable solution. Others then chime in via the comments section. The person with the selected challenge gets a free copy of the book, but everyone who reads these posts, wins. Do you have a challenge at work? Send it to me at jon(a)800ceoread(dot)com.
Today's challenge deals with part-time working women. Here's a note from one of our readers:

"I have worked in outsides sales and customer service for 10 years, have a bachelor's degree in business, and recently gotten my real estate license 2 years ago after being laid off from a job in the wireless industry. I have been staying at home with my son for the past year and have started looking at going back to work but only on a part-time basis. I can't tell you how frustrating this is!! The only jobs available are a joke! I even went on an interview and was told, "We usually do a much more intense interview but since you are only looking for part-time work this will be fine." Come on!! How insulting!!! Part time to me doesn't mean I am only giving 50%, it means I am there less hours and you don't even have to give me benefits - which cost lots of dough! I am so fed up with "corporate America's" narrow minded view of part time work. In speaking to other SAHM (stay at home mom's) I hear the same frustration. Corporate America is missing out on some very talented women because they cannot think outside the box!!!" - Kelly

Does Kelly's situation ring a bell? Even if she were a man, part-time work is part-time credibility, and the corporate world stereotypes it as such. But, that's a generalization, too. There are innovative companies out there that "get it." Unfortunately, as Kelly is experiencing, they're not so easy to find.
However, Sylvia Ann Hewlett has written a lengthy and insightful book about this issue which will hopefully change the way corporate America looks at women who require part-time work. It's called, Off-Ramps and On-Ramps, and it examines a number of companies who do "get it" and are developing creative flex-time positions for women, to successful results. For example, the author cites, "BT Group has been experimenting with flexible work for over twenty years and has found that flexibility isn't just "doable" - it's often accompanied by a leap in productivity. Fully 75 percent of BT's employees these days work flexibly - an astounding statistic - and three-quarters of those on flexible work schedules are men." After spending 3 years on a task force of 34 companies (General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Time Warner, and others), the author identifies a number of companies with similar statistics, and describes how they developed their specific flex programs, what's involved in them, and how these programs have strengthened their companies.
Also importantly, the book clearly describes all of the details of why women take the "off-ramp" in the first place, and what happens to their identity, ambition, and credibility in the process. From there, getting "on-ramped" can be extremely challenging, and as seen by our reader Kelly's experience, pretty common. This book won't just get Kelly more fired-up about what she already realizes; it will help her understand the situation to a much broader degree outside of her own experience, and what some companies are doing to accommodate this career model that's becoming more common. The book identifies 18 best practice models for companies to use to hire and retain talented women. With such linear career paths, yet the growing necessity (both personally and professionally) for women to develop their careers, this book is an essential look into how women and the business world can work together to both side's advantage.

About Aaron Schleicher

Aaron Schleicher has been the author services specialist at 800-CEO-READ since 2004. You can usually find him hidden under a baseball cap, feet kicked up on his desk, talking with authors, publishers, and businesses. Outside the office you can find him crafting candles, listening to records, and making music with friends and family.