The struggle to balance life at work and at home is a familiar one for many working women. Some though, are finding, that flexibility is allowing them achieve their ideal work and family lives.
It's part of a movement we call Womenomics.
Womenomics is the combination of two truisms. The first is women are a hot commodity in the workplace. We have enormous power that many don't even know about. The more senior women who work at a company, the more money the company makes. We control 85 percent of consumer purchases. Our management style, seen as more conciliatory, is in demand these days. Employers are tired of losing us.
And the second truism is, women are demanding new rules of engagement, we want more control of our time so that we can focus on family,as well as career. We are tired of working in a way that does not work for us--playing by rules we didn't make. We want to be able to dial our careers up and down.
But creating a more flexible workplace can stir up a lot of difficult questions. Just who gets to work from home and when? Will your work suffer if you spend too much time with your family? Answering those questions, and the conversations that come with them, can be difficult.
"Good Morning America" brought together a round-table of women of various ages and at various stages in their careers to discuss the "Womenomics" phenomenon and the pressure to be successful both at home and at work.
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Something's Gotta Give?
"Womenomics" has sparked a debate about what this new way of work means for women. For decades, women have been hearing "we've come a long way." But have we?
For Christine Heenan, Vice President of Government Community and Public Affairs at Harvard, success at work and at home has meant not aiming for perfection. "There's always something you're giving up," she says. She's tried full-time, part-time, flex-time -- even started her own company that let her have plenty of time at home. But can women who want to dial down for a bit -- still aim for the top? Absolutely, says Heenan.
"I think it's a false premise to suggest that only by aiming to the top, do you ever get to the top," she explained. "I think much more in terms of a career path and a career ladder, where the only route is up. I think if you're good at what you do, if you work hard and if you listen to yourself and say, this is the time to downshift, this is a time to upshift, you may still find yourself at that destination."
Womenomics: Having It All
The iconic Enjoli perfume advertisement talked about "having it all," but for different women, that can mean different things. Shelley Worrell, a 33-year-old digital manager shares a common desire with many working women.
"My feeling of having it all is obviously having a great job, a really fulfilling career and also having time for my friends and family," Worrell said. She's representative of many in her generation, the younger generation, in that she and her peers -- even if they are single with no kids -- still value time for their personal lives.
Worrell explained, "I have no qualms or no opposition to women having that work-life balance because I want it for myself as a single woman without children because I want to be able to go to the gym. I have a garden that I need to tend to."
More working women are seeking more flexible work schedules to help them creatively manage this ambition, but whether because of personal preference or pressure from coworkers, flextime schedules aren't for every woman.
Heidi Williams-Foy is a mother whose web producer job allowed her to work a flextime schedule. But the flexible hours didn't work for Williams-Foy as her oldest son grew and entered school, so she went back to working regular hours. Her experience highlights another aspect of flextime schedules: the impact they can have on workers with traditional schedules.
"Even though I get along really well with everyone that I work with," she said, "I think there was a tiny bit of resentment and maybe a little bit of jealousy."
Indeed, Amy Binder, 53, CEO at RF Binder, a national PR firm in New York, understands this feeling all too well. From that generation of women who broke through glass ceilings, Amy admits she wasn't always so sympathetic to young female workers juggling work and families.
"My feeling was, hey you know, I did it, so why can't you do it?," Binde said. She felt that her employees, whether male or female, with families or without, needed to be in the office and available to clients during working hours."
"I never was running out to get my child from daycare and it really drove me nuts," Binder said.
Janine Savarese, her employee, was the one driving her nuts. She'd worked with Amy for years, but having a baby changed everything.
"It was really hard," Savarese explained. "I'd worked there for five years. I was a vice president at 25 and you know, I was 28 when I had Carly and I felt like I had put in all that time and I was still working on the way to pick her up from my BlackBerry and I still logged in at night."
Savarese was struggling to find a balance with these two roles, and failing. She felt like she was disappointing her mentor. "I wanted her to think I was doing a good job and she was unhappy with me because my work was -- it was just, it was a disaster," Savarese said.
But Binder's opinion has changed. After Savarese quit, Binder rethought her stance on scheduling. Today, Janine has rejoined the company -- working a flexible schedule. Two days a week she works from her home in New Jersey; the third day, she works in the office. The situation allows her ample time to spend with her three small children. And it's enabled her boss to see the good sense that flextime schedules make.
According to Binder, flex time has allowed her firm to retain top talent. In addition to Savarese, Binder says she has several other young mothers at her office now working flex time. And, as a mother of three grown children -- including two grown sons -- Amy says she also believes flex time needs to be extended to both genders; not just women.
"If you don't have a life, then you're not as good of an employee," Binder said, "because you don't have time to think." Not just for moms, this rationale extends to single women as well.
Finding Your Balance
Christine Heenan said this the type of support is catching on in many different work environments. At Harvard Medical, a bright young researcher delivered her twins prematurely. The researcher's employer worked with faculty development to give her a raise to hire a nanny with healthcare capabilities. They also hired a technician to help with her work load.
"She was across the street from where her twins were, at Children's hospital," Heenan explained. "She was there when she needed to be. She had new support in the lab. And now that male supervisor or lab director is one of the biggest proponents in the medical school for that kind of work, for how to help people during certain seasons of their research career in this case, have it work for them during that period of time.
For Binder, an executive, a mom, and a flextime convert, this type of "Womenomics" revolution is inevitable, and welcome.
"I would say the world we live in is about change and the change isn't only getting to the top, it's making the work environment different," she said. "We have the responsibility and we have the power today to create a very different environment. And if we don't do it, nobody will."
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