Some Ideas: Professional Women Who are no Longer in the Workplace
You did everything right in your quest to go to college and start a career. You took advanced courses in High School, maintained excellent grades, got involved in campus and community events, studied and excelled on the SAT or ACT, wrote your college essays, obtained glowing recommendation letters from your teachers, applied, attended and graduated from your college of choice, entered the workforce in your chosen major and began your career. At some point, you met that special someone got married and decided it was time to have children. Now what? You have a few narrow choices; stay at home with your children thus exiting the workforce and a career that you worked so hard to obtain, pay astronomical child care costs so you can continue working, or choose not to have children at all. Tough choices, but what if there were some alternatives?
Statistics show that female college graduates have been on a steady increase since 1940 and actually surpassed the number of male graduates in 2014 and each year thereafter. In our predominately patriarchal society, more often than not, women exit the workforce to take care of children rather than men. Often the driving force is that a majority of businesses maintain their old-school status quo regarding where an employee must conduct their work from, that is, within the four walls of a brick and mortar location, eight to five, Monday through Friday. As a result, women are disproportionately leaving the workforce to care for their children. This is a major setback for businesses and our economy, as women represent the majority of buying power in the United States and thus, are vital contributors to any business because they are able to provide insight into the needs and wants of women consumers and how to market to them. This will also have compounding effects over the next few years as we continue to lose Baby Boomers due to retirement. We need all able-bodied Americans that want to work and remain in the workforce contributing their specific knowledge, talents, and experiences.
Businesses need to think outside the box and change with the times. The two biggest hurdles for a family with children or aging parents revolve around the high cost of care, which often eats away the majority of one’s income, and a non-flexible work environment. Think about your city or town, then imagine if all business owners on a city block banned together and opened a co-op facility on their premises that provided low cost, or no cost, child, AND eldercare exclusively for their employees. Each business owner would pay a fractional amount per month to provide the facility as an investment in their valued employees. In turn, this type of forward thinking would make these businesses an employer of choice in their market. They would reap the benefits by attracting and retaining top talent, some of whom might otherwise not be able to work at all due to the costs of child and elder care eroding their take-home pay. Time and again statistics have shown that employees working remotely not only maintain their productivity but often increase their productivity. So why aren’t more businesses moving to this model? I think many get stuck in the mentality of status-quo. Business owners are missing out on an opportunity to save money and enjoy a talented workforce if they don’t evaluate their positions. Even in a customer-facing industry, there are positions that can telecommute. Moving all positions that don’t require face to face interactions with customers will save the business money by reducing the amount of physical square footage needed, maintain employee productivity, and provide opportunities for workers with children or parents at home to remain working. Technology has made it possible to work from home so why not take advantage of it?
Humans have been having children and taking care of their elders since the beginning of time. What has changed is the cost of living. In my parent’s day, a single income could support a family and there was a pension to cover the costs of retirement. In our current environment, costs have skyrocketed, pensions have all but gone away, and it takes a double income just to make ends meet. Let’s keep our economy moving forward by executing creative solutions to employment barriers and keep both women and men in the workforce.
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