‘Toxic Work World’? Depends

September 22, 2015 3:28 pm

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s lastest column presents a dire view of the work world for women — but companies are not all the same. How to find the best places to work. 

By Tamika Cody

Photo by Shutterstock

There’s no question that work life integration is a topic that continues to be at the forefront for working parents around the country. A recent Op-Ed published in The New York Times suggests that most American workplaces are not providing flexible work environments for working parents and adult children of ailing family members.

A Toxic Work World, written by Anne-Marie Slaughter — president of the think tank, New America, gave a somewhat accurate description of how some companies have yet to embrace work life policies. However, there’s one minor problem: Slaughter, who is in the midst of releasing her book, Unfinished Business: Women Men Work Family, appears to have lumped all companies into one general category of the “inflexible workplace.”

Slaughter writes: “The problem is with the workplace, or more precisely, with a workplace designed for the Mad Men era, for Leave It to Beaver families in which one partner does all the work of earning an income and the other partner does all the work of turning that income into care — the care that is indispensable for our children, our sick and disabled, our elderly. Our families and our responsibilities don’t look like that anymore, but our workplaces do not fit the realities of our lives.”

Slaughter may have a point, but she failed to point out that there are workplaces that actually have adjusted to the times. Several companies have steered away from conventional work schedules to give their staff the opportunity of having a balance between work and their family lives.

According to a survey by Society for Human Resource Management, 59 percent of organizations’ workforce offers telecommuting and flexible time hours. Meanwhile, 100 percent of DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies offer telecommuting and flextime.

SHRM also conducted a study that revealed 15 percent of companies offer paid paternity leave. In comparison, 76 percent of DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies offer paid paternity leave.

Slaguther’s Toxic Work World piece places a magnifying glass over the workplace culture, which still shows setbacks throughout many organizations in the U.S. However, companies that rank within the Top 10 of DiversityInc’s Top 50 have exemplified their workplace culture for women in management. DiversityInc’s data shows that there are 29 percent more women in management than the Fortune 500 companies.

Example of a Flexible Workplace

Companies in the DiversityInc Top 50 List have taken steps to make sure they have created and provided a well-balanced work place for their employees. Anyone who has taken a look at the data will see that a number of these companies prove that not all workplaces are part of the “Toxic Work World.”

Ellen Williams, Assistant Director of Diversity & Inclusiveness at the Big Four firm, EY (No. 4), said, “We approach [work life balance] from a programmatic and culture point of view.”

“Early on our journey, which started back in the 1990s, we began working with moms to provide work life balance. Today, we now focus offering flexibility to all of our people,” Williams said, explaining that the firm makes it a point to encourage its employees to participate in life activities.

Those activities may include going back to school to develop their career, or even fulfilling a personal goal of participating in a marathon. “By broadening our programmatic and culture philosophy we meet the needs of our employees,” Williams added.

The firm also keeps up with work life balance on a global front. For the last two years EY has participated in a generational study, which shows flexibility in the workplace is not only an important topic in the U.S. but a growing trend around the world.

Parental Flexibility

TD Bank is an up and comer on DiverstiyInc’s Top 50 List that ranks at No. 39 and is a perfect example of a company that caters to its employees with families.

“We appreciate that our employees have lives outside of work, and so we strive to listen and understand in order to come up with thoughtful solutions that are right for them and their families,” said Cyndi DiCastelnuovo, TD Bank’s Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion. “Both full time and part time TD Bank employees are eligible to accrue Paid Time Off, allowing part time working parents the same flexibility as full time employees. … It is up to the employee to determine how to integrate work and life strategies into their lives. It is not a one size fits all solution. TD’s role is to remove barriers to an integrated work life and provide solutions as part of our inclusive environment.”

In addition to time off, DiCastelnuovo noted that TD Bank works in compliance with Family Medical Leave Act to offer maternity leave for women, paternal leave for men, active duty leave for members of the military and leave to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

Virtual Office

When it comes to catering to the needs of working parents and adult children taking care of their elderly parents, some companies accommodate their employees with the flexibility of working virtually. Take a look at DiversityInc’s Top 50 Company, PricewaterhouseCoopers, which ranks at No. 3 on the list. For nearly two decades, the Big Four Firm has offered telecommuting as an option for employees who require work life flexibility.

“I live it and breathe it,” shared one senior manager who works in the diversity office at one of DiversityInc’s Top 50 Companies. The senior manager has two young children and said telecommuting has allowed her to work fulltime, travel for work and spend time with her family. “It’s really a common practice,” she added, noting that workload and work life balance is an old issue that has been addressed over the years at a number of companies.

The senior manager admits that the financial services and consulting industries are demanding careers. She said in order to not get overwhelmed with trying to balance work and family life it’s important for working parents to “raise your hand and ask for what you need.”

As it turns out, there are quite a few companies that aren’t stuck in the Mad Men and Leave it to Beaver era. It’s important to recognize that there are some companies that are far better than others.