In an effort to retain high-performing women they might otherwise lose to caregiving responsibilities, some Baton Rouge companies offer ‘flex’ work opportunities, measuring their success by results rather than the time employees spend in the office.
The move reflects a broader private-sector push for greater work-life balance. Destigmatizing flex schedules can spare female professionals from the so-called “motherhood penalty” that often kicks in when they want to start a family and—not thinking they can do both—drop from the corporate pipeline.
“For a long time, men have supported each other in the workplace…but in the past 20 years, women have been entering with a higher level of confidence and more of a desire to become leaders,” says Robin Mayhall, senior writer for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana. “We’ve started supporting each other in that quest, and our company wants to support women employees in that quest.”
The health insurance firm has for years offered flex scheduling options to all of its 2,500 employees, more than three-quarters of whom are women, and has even recently implemented a formalized work-from-home program to allow for even greater scheduling flexibility. They’re among several ways BCBSLA aims to support its female employees, says Mayhall, with others including an employee resource group geared toward women and lactation rooms available for new mothers.
Many other Baton Rouge businesses—including 78% of Business Report’s 2018 Best Places to Work—might casually allow women the opportunity to work flex hours or a compressed week on a case-by-case basis, but don’t have a written policy in place. Instead, they’re rooted in a line of communication that’s open and constantly flowing, companies say.
“Our flex opportunities are cultural,” says Courtney Henson, human resources director of Assurance Financial. “Our management team often communicates the importance of family over job.”
For the past decade, Jones Walker has offered its 45 full-time staff members (a majority of whom are female) a makeup time policy where they’re allowed to make up up to four hours of work in one week—by coming in earlier one day, leaving later or taking a shorter lunch break—in order to accommodate their personal schedules.
“If they need to attend a school play, they could do that,” says Aurora Stafford, office administrator for the law firm. “The benefit is they don’t have to claim vacation or sick leave to care for short-term appointments.”
Even after their children grow up, female professionals are often hit with caregiving responsibilities for aging parents and need similar flexibility to take their mother or father to doctor’s appointments, says Karen Breaux, human resources director of Postlethwaite & Netterville. To address this, the accounting firm works with individual employees to determine what their scheduling needs are.
Meanwhile, some local institutions accommodate their female workforce’s needs in other ways. Woman’s Hospital, for example, offers competitive maternity benefits, such as reduced costs at the Childcare Development Center and free mammograms.
More broadly, such workplace policies are designed to help employees balance work and caregiving responsibilities. Cultural assumptions about those responsibilities for women are believed to contributed to the gender wage gap: One study by the University of Massachusetts indicates women typically get a 4% pay cut for each child they have, while men get a 6% pay increase on average—a so-called “fatherhood bonus.”
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