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Women in Work demand flexible careers

25 Jul 2012

Women will remain underrepresented amongst corporate and business leaders until the private sector recognises the need for flexible working arrangements according to the authors of a Green Paper released at the University of Sydney Business School today.

The Paper, drafted by the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) says that flexible arrangements, which cover when, where and how women work, are integral to improving opportunities for them to advance through the leadership pipeline.

"A major challenge to flexible work is workplace attitudes that see it as a curiosity, privilege, a nuisance or as an unnecessary cost," said Dr Robyn Clough, AIM's Manager, Public Policy and Thought Leadership.

"Too many managers believe the ideal workplace leader is someone who is able to work full time and is solely committed to their job because they are supported by someone outside of the workplace who attends to their non-work needs," Dr Clough said. "Such a worker may have been the norm in the past, but this is no longer the case."

"Work is no longer neatly contained within set hours," she added. "Workers have a multiplicity of non-work responsibilities and interests which they seek to balance against their work roles."

The AIM Green Paper, titled Managing in a Flexible Work Environment, was launched at a roundtable meeting hosted jointly by AIM and the University of Sydney Business School's Women and Work Research Group (WWRG)

The 'invitation-only' event for senior HR practitioners was organised by Dr Rae Cooper and Professor Marian Baird from the WWRG, and the report was launched by Helen Conway of EOWA.

"We are delighted to leverage AIM's research by bringing workplace leaders together to assist in driving good flexible careers." said Professor Baird, Director of the WWRG. "While childcare and elder care responsibilities drive many requests for flexible work arrangements, women may also wish to study or reduce commuting time."

The Paper says that giving employees greater control over when, how and where they work results in 'better human capital outcomes' which converts to 'enhanced business outcomes' through improved productivity, finance performance and client satisfaction.

"Women are attracted to and remain in work that offers flexibility and recognises their input at work," said Professor Baird. "They are more satisfied and more engaged in their work and that's good for business."

The Paper calls for flexible work options to be 'mainstreamed' within a framework that recognises the business benefits of a flexible workplace which embraces the opportunities that the 21st century digital environment offers.

"Equipping managers with the necessary skills and providing them with guidance and resources so they can effectively apply those skills in a flexible work environment is an important step towards mainstreaming flexible work in Australian workplaces," Professor Baird concluded.