What would you say if I told you that you have more power to negotiate your work schedule than you think? Or that your boss may be afraid of you leaving your current position because of how much it would cost to find and train your replacement in this economy?
Those are just a couple pieces of food for thought from the new book Womenomics: Write Your Own Rules for Success, by Claire Shipman of ABC News and Katty Kay of the BBC. Claire and Katty graciously agreed to be part of a book “salon” at Chez PunditMom to talk about how their personal experiences and the research they’ve been doing led them to write this book that they hope will inspire more women to see the power they possess in the workplace, especially when it comes to gaining control over their schedules while advancing their careers AND making time for their families.
Sound too good to be true? Well, it’s not easy — depending on our professions, some of us might have a harder time than others convincing our bosses that it really is to their benefit to re-evaluate how we all work, but Shipman and Kay say the proof is in the research they cite in their book.
The premise of Womenomics is that in addition to having power, women need to find ways to help their employers see that it really is to their benefit to be more flexible in how they think about women in the workplace — that encouraging and promoting flexible and part-time work isn’t just an accommodation or a perk, but rather a key ingredient to success, especially in this economy.
The business world is changing in ways that call for more brain over brawn, and our more inclusive and constructive management style is in high demand. Again, this claim is not wishful thinking; you’ll see the research. And when you do, it will make perfect sense. Our right-brain multitasking and problemsolving skills help us make good corporate decisions. And companies now understand that a woman’s opinion about products is critical, since (as we all know) we do the bulk of the buying for our families. Throw in the fact that we’ve got more degrees than men do and that there is an approaching talent shortage, especially of college-educated workers, and anyone can do the math. We have never been hotter. And it helps, by the way, that our savvy youngers are fanning the flames, demanding more freedom than we’ve dared.
I think it’s safe to say we all came away from our book discussion feeling like there are more options for us to create meaningful and lucrative work lives AND that we don’t have to sacrifice our personal lives for it — that it might be slow going, but there is a way to support our families, advance our careers and have the kind of time we want for our families, as well.
It hit me like a brick wall that I need to define some boundaries for myself. It’s so easy as a work at home mom to work all day long. It was the same way when I was a stay at home mom. There’s no beginning or end of the work day. It’s always computer time. So thanks to Claire and Katty, I have vowed to stay away from the computer between 3:00 and 8:00 and devote that time BACK to my kids.
Reading the book, I had many moments where I slapped my forehead and thought, “Of course!” But for many of us there is an element of fear -- what if I set boundaries and I get fired? What if I say I’m not available at certain times and they don’t hire me again? Those are legitimate questions we all struggle with, but Shipman and Kay make good points about finding ways to help our employers see that it benefits them when they loosen the grip of the time clock and let all employees work smarter.
Nothing is going to change overnight. But over weeks and months it can if we spend the time laying the groundwork — if we do good work and become valuable assets for our employers, it will only benefit them to keep us and encourage women, and men, to work more productively. As Cindy from Don’t Gel Too Soon, remarked:
For someone my age, it’s thrilling to hear employment issues discussed with assumptions we could never have made. Asking for schedule adjustments, work/family life balance, was out of the question. We were just fighting for equal pay and a few weeks off when we had our babies. The argument these two women make, that businesses are learning that women in their workforce in great numbers, and at all levels, is of great value to their bottom line. They line up to hear the two speak; join conference calls by the dozens to be briefed and basically finally get the power and capacity of “more than half the talent, not just more than half the population.”
Womenomics doesn’t have all the answers for making things better for women in the workplace, and they’ve taken some heat for that, but the ideas in the book are good ones — ones that I’m taking to heart.
Claire and Katty, thank you so much for your book and allowing me to host such a special event!