Yes, Professional Women Can Have Freedom and Flexibility, Even at the Top
As a part of the PreparedU Project, we sat down with Vice President of Human Resources at Bain & Company, Suzanne Roeder, who shared her views on how companies can help millennial women advance in the workplace. See Suzanne’s profile in the PreparedU Project’s Infographic Storybook on Millennial Women and Workplace Transformation.
What can companies do to ensure that women can find equal opportunities for advancement in their careers?
At Bain & Company, women expect the freedom and flexibility to share their unique perspectives, shape their own careers and be influential leaders. As a firm, we expect our female colleagues to rise to the top, and we eliminate any obstacles that stand in their way. We think and act creatively to help each individual succeed in our fast-paced environment — more than 80 percent of female partners have taken advantage of our flexible work options.
Bain women share the secrets of their success — in business and in life — at our Global Women’s Summit, during global training sessions, on our women’s networking website, through mentor and sponsor relationships and via numerous local office programs. And nothing is left to chance. Our Global Women’s Leadership Council works tirelessly to ensure Bain is the employer of choice for the world’s top female talent. Bain consistently ranks as one of Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies.
Bain women influence big decisions, build connections and change organizations. At Bain, women are equipped and supported to achieve their personal and professional goals.
What perceptions of women in the workplace need to change?
One significant misperception is that gender equality should no longer be a corporate priority because the playing field is now level, and women already have the same opportunities as men for promotion to senior management positions.
This point of view leads to a lack of support for gender equality programs and unsatisfactory results, including women opting out of opportunities to take on more challenging roles. In doing so, women may play into another myth: they are not as driven or committed as their male colleagues — a problem that may stem from innate differences in leadership and management style. Traits, such as problem-solving and influence (more commonly associated with men) are often prized more so than rewarding, consulting and mentoring others, which are frequently recognized in women. Changing this perspective requires women to adjust their own behavior so their talents aren’t overlooked. Men can meet them halfway by looking outside their own style preferences and valuing the skills women innately possess.
How has the workplace changed for women and how must it evolve?
The workplace now understands that top female talent is a necessity that must be nurtured, developed and retained. While it seems counterintuitive, our research shows that effective gender parity efforts increasingly make the workplace better for men as well as women because companies that support talented women today will do the same for men as traditional family roles continue to evolve. Therefore, companies must continue to create the right environment and the right platform for talent to succeed — regardless of gender. This includes ‘hardware,’ such as gender parity programs and incentives, combined with ‘software,’ in the form of committed leaders and managers who promote opportunities for constant learning and meaningful relationship-building, as well as the ability to create individualized flexible workdays, depending on the needs and interests of one’s family and self.