Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Women and Work: A Call to Transform Corporate Culture to Include More Flexibility

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Women and Work: A Call to Transform Corporate Culture to Include More Flexibility

Article excerpt

"It [the future] should create the opportunity for individuals to make meaningful choices about how to integrate the two (work and life), and as a result create a better overall quality of life."

Edward E. Lawler III, 2014

In the Summer 2005 issue of the Organization Development Journal, author Laura Bierema stated "there are many pleas for research on women in the work context, but few published studies" (p. 8). A better understanding of women in the work context would surely lead to an organization's ability to adjust corporate culture in a way that attracts, retains, and develops talented women. This research begins to illuminate what has occurred since Bierema's 2005 statement regarding women in the work context. An interest in the phenomenon of women in entrepreneurial organizations who left a corporate career track in middle management was the starting point of this study as conversations with corporate executives and entrepreneurs revealed there was a drain on female talent within the corporate landscape. The corporate executives expressed concern for a drain on talent and entrepreneurs spoke of the exit from this corporate culture. At this point, it became apparent that talking to women who exited the corporate culture to start their own businesses might reveal more about what was happening in the workforce. These conversations, an interest in learning more about female entrepreneurs who left the corporate culture, coupled with an interest in revisiting the findings of a 2013 study in order to contribute to this request by Bierema, and offer an invitation to the field of Organization Development (OD) consulting is the objective of this article.

The paper begins with developments in corporate culture that instigate a desire for women to leave the corporate culture, hence the "opt-out" era (Belkin, 2003; Graff 2007; Cannon, 2009). We conclude with defining opportunities for the field of OD to assist with changes to workplace culture to incorporate more flexibility.

Literature on workforce history

Extant literature on the history of women in the workforce begins to shed some light on how the corporate culture often stems from a white, male perspective with minimal integration of a female perspective. It also depicts barriers women have faced for decades when "climbing the proverbial corporate ladder" to management positions within the organization.

Three streams of literature are provided here for this study: women in the workplace; the plight of women in management; and the workplace culture. Starting with a history of work in the United States seemed a logical step in order to understand what the US has endured over the past five decades and how the nature of work has evolved. With a clear understanding of the nature of work, the next phase was to understand women in the workforce as well as their impact at the management level within the organizations. Since this study is also intended to learn more about women and work, the final stream explored workplace culture, specifically within corporations, and the lack of sensitivity to conflicting work and life domains.

History and Nature of Workforce. During the 1970s, prosperity from previous decades began to erode and an increased number of women joined the workforce with poor pay and recognition from the job. Legislation was introduced to "redress the balance" through creation of the Equal Pay Act of 1974, the government's way of ensuring the same pay for the same level of work (Woodd, 1999; Mattis, 1999). Alternatives to work arrangements and schedules were offered with the introduction of the notion of "telework" and telecommuting which were a result of the technological advancements made in the early 1970s. The management of the responsibilities at home related to family, as well as those from the workplace, were often exhausting for women, in part because of the anxiety and stress, as well as other emotions that went along with both domains (Beatty, 1996). …

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