According to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Labor, 70 percent of women with children under the age of 18 are part of the work force. Just like many working parents, I struggled trying to balance the demands of work and home life. That’s why working on a reduced schedule for part of my career was so beneficial.
When I had my first child in 1986, I was a manager in the tax department at Deloitte Tax LLP in Detroit. Through the flexibility options available, I returned from maternity leave and began working a 60 percent schedule. I even rose to a leadership position doing so. The experience was so valuable. It allowed me to be the kind of mother I wanted to be, while also giving me the opportunity to build my career. Here are some tips for talking to your employer about a flexible schedule and maintaining professional success:
1. Accentuate the positive.
Come up with a game plan and a schedule that will work for you. Then, talk to your employer about why the plan will be beneficial to them. Point out that people who are passionate about what they do often perform better—and are worth keeping. When firms provide benefits to employees that help them feel they can balance both their work and life priorities, they typically produce better results.
2. Work with your employer and focus on the long term.
Initially, I considered leaving my job until the children were in school. But I thought it would be too hard to jump back into my career after a long absence. My supervisor was committed to keeping me with Deloitte Tax LLP for the long term, so we worked with human resources to create a plan that allowed me to work a reduced schedule. My supervisor recognized that even though reduced schedules were rare in business at that time, the seasonality of a tax department schedule did allow for some flexibility. So, when I returned from maternity leave, I began working Tuesday through Thursday.
3. Revisit the arrangement as circumstances change.
Be ready to make adjustments as needed. After a few years working 60 percent of a typical schedule, I was asked to take on recruiting for the tax department. Since my children had started school, I was able to increase my schedule to about 75 percent. My responsibilities—and my kids—have grown over the years, and I eventually returned to a full-time schedule.
4. Aim high.
Don’t let a reduced schedule hold you back from advancement. In 2003, after more than 16 years on a reduced schedule, I was promoted to managing director. Since then, I have been named to several leadership positions. I, and many others like me, have proven you can still rise to the next level even on a flexible schedule.
If you’re a leader of an organization, consider exploring different models of flexibility. Flexibility can be a firm’s advantage in recruiting and retaining the best people and can help establish a culture that embraces diversity and inclusion throughout your organization.
When it comes to maintaining momentum in your career, the AICPA’s Online Mentoring Program can be a valuable networking resource for you and can demonstrate your firm’s commitment to advancing the next generation of leaders. The mentoring program is especially beneficial for small firms and sole practitioners as you can virtually connect with colleagues across the country. Another helpful tool is the PCPS Flexibility Toolkit, which has insights into ways you can promote flexible work arrangements in your firm.