January 14, 2011 by Ilene H. Lang
American accounting firms lead the way in providing flexible work arrangements. Flex policies saved Deloitte more than $45 million a year by reducing turnover, while PricewaterhouseCoopers’ estimated turnover dropped to 15 percent a year, from 24 percent. “Every night, our assets walk out the door and go home,” said James S. Turley, Ernst & Young’s CEO. “And we need to be the kind of place that they want to come back to the next day.”
If these companies can operate flex programs—even during tax season—and find it good for their bottom line, why can’t all of corporate America follow suit? More details on the benefits of flex—plus news about women in tech (or the lack thereof), gender bias in India, discrimination claims in the United States, and Canada’s top earners—in today’s C This.
Web 2.0 Lacks Women
Facebook and Twitter have revolutionized the way we communicate, but their boards look like they’re straight out of the Ma’ Bell era. These two Web 2.0 behemoths—not to mention Foursquare, Groupon, and Zynga—do not have any women on their boards. The women are out there: Oracle and Google have two women on board, while Yahoo has three. Women rule the social web, so shouldn’t they be on the boards of the companies that serve them?
“The Ultimate Boy’s Club”
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’s list of Canada’s 100 best-paid CEOs includes only men. The dearth of women on the list reflects the lack of female corporate leaders in Canada. In our most recent Census, Catalyst found that 19 of Canada’s top 500 businesses were run by just 16 women. According to Deborah Gillis, Vice President, Membership & Global Operations, Catalyst, Canadian companies have a lot to lose by overlooking half of the population. “This is a talent issue,” she said. “No organization wants to be playing with half the deck.”
The Bottom Line on Workplace Flex
Accounting firms estimate that the cost of hiring and training a new employee in their industry can be 1.5 times a departing worker’s salary, so reducing turnover by 200 employees saves roughly $30 million. Workplace flexibility programs are the key to reducing turnover. “Some businesses treat flexibility as just a set of policies—if we put policies on the books, that’s all we need,” said Kathleen E. Christensen, director of workplace flex programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. “But what you really need is to have those policies embedded in the way work is done, and that’s what a lot of accounting firms have done.”
Re-think in India
Patna High Court Chief Justice Rekha M. Doshit—the first woman to hold this office—said that laws alone cannot end gender bias in India. According to Doshit, “there are several provisions in our Constitution aimed at empowering women, but they are hardly able to make any perceptible difference in our behaviour.” What’s needed, she said, is an attitudinal change to wipe out the root causes of gender bias.
Discrimination Spikes, But Why?
Accusations of workplace discrimination in the United States spiked last year to 99,922 claims made to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—an increase of 7.2 percent from the previous year. The largest increase in claims came from people who said they had been discriminated against due to disability. But experts cautioned that the increase may stem from an expansion of the legal definition of “disability” or tied to more employees challenging their termination amid the recession.