What Companies Can Do to Keep Women From 'Opting Out' - In House
In House - The FindLaw Corporate Counsel Blog

What Companies Can Do to Keep Women From 'Opting Out'

Last week, The New York Times published an article 10 years in the making. It followed up with some women who had "opted-out" of their careers a decade ago to be full-time mothers, and tracked their career paths. The three women profiled wanted to "opt-in" again to their careers, but were facing obstacles along the way.

Which makes us ask: What can companies do to reduce "opt-outs" and help women thrive in corporate environments? The overwhelming response: more flex time. Working Mother magazine and Flex-Time Lawyers recently released their 2013 list of 50 Best Law Firms for Women, and not surprisingly, all of the firms on the list offered flex time or reduced hours.

What is surprising: A new study shows that when men and women ask for flex time, "Bosses favor men over women when employees request flex time," reports Slate. Um, anyone else feel like we're going around in circles?

Let's face the facts: Women are increasingly the bread-winners for their families, and are graduating from professional schools in record numbers. So why are managers so willingly allowing a brain drain from their companies?

Here are some policies that your company can implement to prevent the departure of half your company's talent:

1. Recognize It's Not a Women's Issue.

First things first, it's important for companies to recognize this is not a women's issue -- it's a family issue. A woman's earnings affects her family, and family life. You may not think these issues affect men, but they do, as The Huffington Post reports.

2. Offer Flex Time and Reduced Hours.

One of the main things a company can do to retain female talent is to offer flex time, or reduced hours. As a new Catalyst report indicates, face time does not equate to top performance. The sooner companies realize this, the sooner they'll be able to hold on to their talent.

3. Don't Devalue Part-Time Work.

Don't relegate mothers to the "mommy track." Just because they are moms doesn't mean that they can't work on high-pressure projects. Rather than giving assignments based on face time, dole out assignments based on merit.

4. Offer Backup Child Care.

If you're a parent, you know that emergencies come up. Unfortunately, it usually falls to the moms to deal with them. If companies offered backup child care, something both mothers and fathers can benefit from, then there would be less pressure to find the always elusive work-life balance.

All of the achievements women have made over the past decades are coming to a grinding halt because women are increasingly "opting-out," feeling like they don't have many other options. In-house counsel can help plug the brain drain by implementing corporate policies that help mothers, fathers and families.

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