Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Employee productivity and shared value – can women in the workplace finally “have it all”?

Among professional women there are two camps:

1. You can’t have it all
These women state that women who are mothers and also top professionals are the exception, not the rule. They’re rich, they’re self-employed or entrepreneurs who enjoy higher levels of job flexibility, or they’re just plain lying.

2. You can have it all
These women state that they’ve never had to compromise, and that their kids turned out great. They also say that internal factors are a big part of what causes women to feel they have to trade-off in one area or another.

The concept of “shared value” teaches us that companies can simultaneously enhance competitiveness and improve their community. 

“The concept of shared value can be defined as policies and operating practices that enhance the competitiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which it operates.”

While the opinions on women in the workplace may vary, one fact that can’t be denied is that many women are leaving the workforce. Given that companies with increased gender diversity do better financially, it behooves them to figure out how they can retain more women. Could Porter’s concept of shared value be applied in a way that keeps more women in the workplace?

Porter provides a lot of different examples about how creating shared value can benefit the bottom line, the community and employees. While Porter alludes in a few places to the idea that more women working often has a powerful effect on local communities, he does not provide any examples of how creating shared value for women internally within these companies might give them a competitive edge and also help communities.

In the same way that employee health programs help to increase productivity, companies need to find more employee programs that work for working mothers. Flexible schedules, telecommuting and subsidized day care are a start. I think a big problem is the loss of career momentum that many women can feel when they take more time out for their children – in demanding roles like consulting companies like A.T. Kearney are exploring temporary customization of women's roles to allow for more time spent at home. 

The idea of “having it all” is, interestingly, only debated within the context of women when really it should be considered for both men and women who are parents. Last time I checked, having more good parents was good for society. I think if companies expand their employee productivity “shared value” to include programs designed for working moms, they might work for dads too. 

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