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June 1, 2009

Women’s Work: Our Impact on the Professional Landscape

(For some reason this week, I have been inundated with news, conversations, and information about women’s transformative influence on various societal aspects including the professional landscape, human evolution, social change, and leadership. Because it all together seemed so inspiring and fortuitous, I thought I would write a series of well-noted segments/blog posts detailing each of these insights. One will be shared over each of the next four weeks.)

First up: the impact that women have had on our professional landscape.

David Leonhardt of the NY Times published an article entitled "Financial Careers Come at a Cost to Families".
At first glance, the article bears some bad news. It turns out that women who have participated int eh financial and consulting sectors are likely to have experienced up to a 41% wage disparity if they have taken time off for kids as compared to their peers who haven’t.

The hidden good news however, is that women have reshaped many other fields and industries including medicine and law making them more work/life fit friendly and reducing “time-off” wage disparities to as low as 16%. While I realize that 16% may not be considered by some to be a "win", it is clear that innovations and creative solutions, such as group practices for Ob/Gyns, have enabled certain fields to evolve to become more compatible for professionals with families.

Further, the article underscores what both experts and research tell us, which is:
* that men too are benefiting from, taking advantage of, and enjoying flexible work/life practices on near equal footing with women. More and more we are seeing men indicate that work life fit is personally important and that existing policies and attitude pose professional and personal challenges. See Cali Yost's insights and findings.

* that work/life programs and initiatives are largely regarded as positive and a value add, not just by employees (male and female) but shareholders as well. See discussion by Freek Vermeulen

So, on the downside…women in finance and consulting, two supremely-hyped career choices of late have likely gotten screwed from a salary and work/life fit perspective.

But on the upside, women have pioneered significant workplaces changes, helping to create quality of life programs that have not only been enjoyed and valued female and male colleagues alike but also recalibrated the status quo for many industries reshaping the way that work is done. So, maybe finance and consulting are (just?) the last frontier.

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