Strides in flex time show corporate culture can change — but has it really?

A recent New York Times article highlighting the use of flex time for parents working at the ‘Big 4’ accounting firms has received some criticism from Kyra Cavanaugh at  Cavanaugh argues that while the Big 4’s strides in family-friendly policies are noteworthy, they simply do not represent the groundbreaking cultural shift claimed in their press releases.

The current corporate culture, says Cavanaugh, values face time and hours worked over performance. This tips the balance in favor men — who typically spend less time away from work performing parenting duties than do women. Thus, until the corporate culture changes its values structure, firms will continue to face the challenges of a male-dominated partner track — and remain unable to offer truly family-friendly workplace environments.

From the NYT:

The accounting industry has improved its flexibility policies in three waves. Deloitte led the way in the early 1990s, adopting more generous maternity policies and more flexible scheduling…

In the second wave, shortly after 2000, many employees complained that the new flexibility policies were geared only to mothers and were not systematic. So several firms broadened their policies, making them available to everyone…

In recent years…many firms took yet more steps to ensure flexibility — for instance, Ernst & Young adopted four-day weekends for Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day. Workplace experts stress that employees must not fear they will be penalized for participating in flexibility programs.

But not so fast, says Kyra Cavanaugh:

Yes, accounting firms got out in front on the workplace flexibility issue 20 years ago. It was a market-driven decision motivated by the increase of female CPAs graduating college (60%). And accounting firms have led the way in policy implementation. And, yes, some departments in some accounting firms have made strides in walking the walk, not just talking the talk…

If flex had been so effective a strategy to retain working mothers (and fathers) in the accounting field, then there should be a long line of women waiting to fill their boardrooms.

Read more from Memo to Accounting Firms: “Pull Back the Curtain”

Read more form the New York Times: Flex Time Flourishes in Accounting Industry

Published by waworkfam

The Washington Work and Family Coalition includes representatives of seniors, women, labor, health professionals, children’s advocates, faith communities, low income workers, employers, non-profits and other organizations. We’re working together to make it easier for parents to raise healthy children and care for aging parents; for workers to care for themselves or their partners in the event of a serious illness; and for businesses to offer modern workplace standards that improve productivity and worker health.

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