It’s a fact that women make less than their male counterparts in the workplace. They often face additional challenges, struggling to balance home responsibilities with professional ones. It’s called the gender gap, and it’s a hot topic for anyone who is a woman or even knows a woman in the modern world of work. Let’s explore the gender gap and get a glimpse of one startup aiming to close it by prioritizing flexibility for women in the workplace.
The Gender Gap at a Glance
A congressional report from the Joint Economic Committee—Gender Pay Inequality: Consequences for Women, Families and the Economy—found that on average, women earn 79 percent of what men earn. That means if you’re a woman, you bring home $4 for every $5 a man makes. This is troubling, clearly, but there’s more to this equation than just the pay gap. Women are more likely than men to step out of the working world to focus on child-rearing, causing an upheaval of their professional lives. Not all women opt to stay home to care for their children, though. In fact, that same report from Congress found “working mothers may also suffer because of a perception by some employers that women with children are generally less committed to their work.”
Sounds like a lose-lose, right? One startup says it has the answer: Flexibility.
Werk: Redefining the Job Search
According to co-CEOs Anna Auerbach and Annie Dean, their startup—Werk, a job site catering to professional women seeking flexible positions and the companies that provide them—is out to solve problems for women “in a forced choice between career and care.” Werk reports 30 percent of women are leaving the workforce, many pushed out by inflexible work environments. Seventy percent of those women, says Werk, would not be exiting their positions if their roles were renegotiated to include some flexibility in scheduling.
You might be asking yourself, “Wait, don’t most companies already offer flexibility?” The answer is yes and no. Werk’s philosophy is that while many companies claim to offer their employees flexibility, actually asking for it in a time of need can lead to women being wrongly labeled as less dedicated than those who physically punch in every day without fail. And that’s a problem.
Here’s how Werk works: The platform is not for every woman, nor is it for every company. Werk’s target job seeker is a highly-educated woman seeking a leadership position, and most of the hiring companies are small corporations. The level of flexibility for each position varies—some are completely virtual, some offer a part-time remote option, and others redefine “office hours” to unconventional work times like evenings and weekends. While each scenario is different, it’s this focus on pre-negotiated flexibility that binds the opportunities together.
Werk’s concept makes sense. As our collective access to digital technologies that enable remote work continues to rise—along with a hyper-focus on enterprise mobility and what that means to the workforce—it only seems logical that more companies embrace flexibility as a business model and not simply a business option. With this opportunity comes challenges, though. For these setups to work, having the right type of manager is crucial—one who is comfortable working digitally and understands how to lead and motivate a remote workforce, for starters. And, if Werk’s concept gives rise to more than just a single platform—which I believe it will—future solutions will likely cater to both women and men.
For now, though, Werk is making waves on its own. In her corporate bio, Werk’s co-CEO Annie Dean notes she is “fascinated by simple answers to big questions.” Is flexibility the simple answer to the big questions swirling around the gender gap in the workplace? It’s clear Werk has bet on it. Would you? Tell me in the comments, and let’s talk.
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