Today, I am in my hometown, New York City, to host the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility. This will be the 10th and final Dialogue in a series we’ve hosted around the country following the Workplace Flexibility Forum hosted by the White House in March 2010. The Women’s Bureau National Dialogues have taken place in great cities like Dallas, Pasadena, Atlanta, Kansas City and Chicago. The topics for the dialogues have been as diverse as our participants – small business, health care, manufacturing and low wage earners, just to name a few. Over 1300 attendees including workplace flexibility experts, union leaders, researchers, and business leaders have learned, shared and challenged themselves to help create quality workplace environments that foster innovation, productivity and work-life balance. The Women’s Bureau and its partners worked across industries and sectors to help employers and partners understand how workplace flexibility can work and benefit both workers and the bottom line.
Today’s Dialogue will focus on challenges and solutions facing professional workers and will provide an opportunity for industry leaders like Elizabeth Shuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO to inspire us all to make a better workplace a reality now. One excellent example of how employers are building a better workplace is Gibbons P.C., a New Jersey based law firm that will discuss its program that allows mothers to rejoin the firm at 60% initially and 80% over the long run in order to maintain the path to the partner track for women.
New York is a city like none other. The sheer magnitude of employees and their diversity of needs can be overwhelming, but business leaders here, like in so many other cities, are not shying away from the big goal of creating a better workplace for all. In our country’s most competitive city, it is important to emphasize that workplace flexibility increases the productivity of workers and offers employers a competitive edge – and that competitive edge translates into a benefit to our nation’s economy.
Research shows that when employers implement flexible work options and programs, ALL employees are better able to manage work and life responsibilities leading to higher morale and ultimately improvements in productivity and the bottom line. Think of it this way: without formal workplace flexibility policies adapted to fit the various work places, women and men alike, will continue to struggle with balancing work and family. A struggling worker is a less productive worker.
The Women’s Bureau is committed to help working families achieve a better balance between work and family responsibilities. Workplace flexibility is not just a woman’s issue – it is a family issue and it is a national economic issue.
I look forward to sharing the stories of our Dialogue participants today and the lessons learned with all of you throughout this process. Please stay tuned for my follow up blogs after today’s event.
Sara Manzano-Díaz is Director of the U. S. Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau.