Bain exec: Flex-work options key to corporate gender parity

Bain & Company partner Julie Coffman discusses the HR initiatives that have helped close the long-standing gender gap among executives in the firm.

Bain exec: Flex-work options key to corporate gender parity

While Yahoo’s Marissa Meyer and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg made headlines as newly appointed executives of multinational organisations, the fact remains that only 4.6% of Fortune 500 CEOs are women.
As a result, Bain & Company has undertaken several successful initiatives to help bridge this gap in leadership. One of its first undertakings was implementing options for flexible work arrangements, which allow employees to maintain a robust professional life while still fulfilling personal obligations such as caring for family and traveling.
“I’m just as likely to leave my office at 3:30pm to go to one of my kid’s baseball games, get on a conference call at 5pm while I’m driving back, and then do email from 9-10:30pm to make up for whatever I missed,” said partner Julie Coffman.
Coffman, a mother of three, understands the demands that can be placed on women outside the workplace. Where she feels many companies go wrong, though, is in assuming women want “soft-pedalled” assignments as a result. On the contrary, women should be reminded why they fell in love with the job in the first place, and given complex work to feel energized again.   
Also, Bain is a proponent of promoting staff by way of a career lattice. Instead of viewing career paths as a mutually exclusive choice between climbing to senior ranks or falling off the career trajectory, it allows employees to exercise different roles and move in a latitudinal direction. These options include:

  • Part-time employment
  • Rotating client-facing roles
  • Extended leave of absence
  • Transfers and externships
  • Maternity and paternity leave

“I took a six-month sabbatical three years ago and that was a huge rejuvenator for me,” said Coffman. “I’m thankful that Bain has allowed me to flex my time and help me create the illusion that I have it all.”
This article was adapted from a longer feature on work-life integration in HR Director Magazine. To read more, click here.

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