The workplace is not built for women to thrive in. There I said it.
We recently received news that my husband will be returning to the office 3 days a week and it's sent our daily routine back to the drawing board. I'm thankful that this is a hybrid plan but can't stop thinking about how many (especially women) will be affected by this significantly. In recent years the conversation around women in the workplace has shifted with stories like tennis superstar Serena Williams stepping away from her career in order to support her home life. While the situation faced by women returning to the office and the decision Serena Williams made are drastically different, they spark the same question – is the workplace created equally for everyone? And if not, what needs to change? As an entrepreneur, I've taken time to break the traditional workplace rules, but find myself constantly educating others on why flexibility can be more productive. We know not everyone has the privilege to be able to walk away from their career to support their family. Nor can everyone be an entrepreneur who sets their own hours. So, how can workplaces support women to help them achieve their highest potential?
The answer is simple: Update. It's crazy to think that the standard workday hasn't changed in years. Let's face facts this setup only supports the old boys club. Bringing change isn't hard. Start by allowing for a hybrid workspace and flexible hours giving people more options during the workday to support their needs. School ends at three yet the standard workday ends at five. Parenthood is not supported in any way by this dynamic. Allowing flexible work days gives people the freedom to support home life while not sacrificing productivity at work. Corporations can also take lessons from thriving small businesses, like ours! We implemented a shorter work week one year ago and I can confidently say this has only increased productivity and morale. A Monday - Thursday work week allows people to create more balance. When people are able to choose their hours while ensuring the work is completed you empower them with time. Many small businesses have implemented this structure and have seen an increase in productivity and a decrease in burnout. Lastly, governments need a clear policy in place to help women thrive in the workplace. For example, many women fall behind in their careers when it is time to build a family. Although this is a personal choice, they should not be penalized for it. There are currently laws around maternity leave structures but that does not create an equal playing field. What brings us closer to pay equity is structured leave for both partners similar to the set up in Iceland where they have a “use it or lose it policy” around paternity leave. With this law, the pay gap has shrunk and equal opportunity is supported. The time to change is now, we need to take action in order to build equality and a world everyone can thrive in.