Why Flex For All Could Vanquish the Gender Pay Gap

why we don’t have flex for all

If the US economy could save $15 billion annually if every firm adopted work flexibility—and the gender pay gap could vanish, according to Harvard economist Claudia Goldin—why don’t we have transparent flexible work practices for all?

It’s a worthwhile question to explore. Like many things, the answer is nuanced and layered. While companies know research shows flexible working results in higher productivity, engagement, and retention, most do not have structured flexible work practices available to all. And if they do offer flexible work practices, rarely do companies measure the results and then, improve on those practices.

Most people (and companies) could benefit from working in a way that’s compatible with the lives they live. And while the reason for flexible work should be agnostic, transparent, and readily available to all employees regardless of gender or parental status, women may benefit most.

Women see the most devastating loss of income in our country. Flexible working can change. On average a woman will make nearly $600,000 less than a man working the same span. This is due in large part to the difficult decisions women are forced to make as the primary caregivers to children or aging parents. Women drop out or fall back at the peak of their careers due to the lack of flexibility or support at work.

And, there’s something more… Michelle spoke it, 

The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls.

Across the world, women don’t receive equal education or career opportunities, they don’t have bodily autonomy, and they face violence throughout their lives. And women of color, poor women, and LGBTQ persons experience it more.

The Patriarchy in the US is strong, and our workplaces designed during the Industrial Revolution when most women weren’t part of the workforce, reflect it.

how flex—and specifically job sharing—could impact the pay gap

When I began Work Muse, my main purpose was to spread job sharing so others could experience the work-life balance I had, but I now see with clarity that flexible work—and specifically job sharing—can directly affect change for gender equality in the workplace. Werk pieced together some great research on how flexible work changes the equation for women.*

Here’s why:

  • Women make up 57% of the college-educated, entry-level workforce with a greater range of occupations than ever – there’s not a pipeline problem.*
  • Only 6% of Fortune CEOs are women but nearly HALF of working women want to become CEOs or senior leaders – there’s not an ambition problem.* 
  • Where the U.S. once led the world in working women, we now lag behind due to dated policies from the 1990s (if not the 1950s) and little change in culture to reflect the modern workforce – there’s a structural problem.
  • As primary caregivers to children or aging parents, they are forced to make difficult choices around career and caring. This is an issue nearly every woman will face as up to 90% of caregivers to aging parents in the U.S. are women.
  • Without flexible work options, women drop out or fall back to non-leadership roles. And those who leave to freelance forgo valuable benefits. 30% of talented women leave the workforce, but 70% would have stayed if they had access to flexibility.*
  • Flexibility is one of the top factors women care about during a job search.
  • Gender diversity leads to better outcomes and increased profit and revenue. Any degree of flexible working makes a big difference in the lives of women, but job sharing uniquely allows them to separate and prioritize work and life, working half the week with a supportive partner while progressing in their careers. They often keep their crucial benefits and have the flexibility they need to care for human beings, while their employers have the 24/7 coverage needed with increased productivity, engagement, and loyalty.

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  • Job sharing (at work or in volunteer roles) increases women’s ability to participate on boards, in non-profit organizations, volunteering, at work, and in their children’s lives creating a better society for all of us.

Your step-by-step guide to getting the flex green light:

My goal is to help you fight for and get flex:


Melissa Nicholson is the Founder & CEO of Work Muse, a job share solutions firm. Job sharing is a partnership between two people to share the responsibilities of one full-time position. Work Muse drives adoption of job sharing in business as a source of competitive advantage while helping individuals find work-life balance. Join the #JobshareRevolution here –– events, resources, and relevant content to empower you in work and life! For more info, hello@workmuse.com.

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