Professional Women Choosing Flexibility Over Higher Pay

In a new survey, 75 percent of women say they would rather have more free time than make more money in their jobs.

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Just a few decades ago, women fought for the right to work alongside men. Now it seems they’re not as committed to rising up the corporate ladder—they want flexibility instead. The third annual “Women and Workplace” put out by More Magazine shows that 75 percent of college-educated women aged 35 to 60 nationwide would rather have more free time in their lives than make more money at their jobs. In fact, 40 percent would even take a pay cut for more flexibility.

It seems like flexibility is more valuable to us than ever, for both mothers and single women. While you would expect mothers to skew more heavily toward flexible workplace options so that they could spend more time with their children, 68 percent of women without children also would rather have more free time than make more money. Flexibility for all of us means better balance between the professional part of our lives and the personal.

[See The 50 Best Careers of 2011.]

Why the sudden cry for time and flexibility? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women worked an average of 7.8 hours a day in 2010. Add to that grocery shopping, picking up the kids, cooking dinner, helping with homework, and oh yes, spending quality time with friends and family, and there’s not much left for yourself at the end of the week. It’s understandable we’d want a little more time to spread out.

Have Our Goals Changed?

It seems like just yesterday women were burning their bras in protest of joining the workforce and climbing up the corporate ladder, but according to the survey, three out of four women would not apply for their boss’ job. The reason why? They don’t want to deal with the politics, pressure, and responsibility. 

Are We Being Held Back?

You would think that women would be happy to help a sister rise through the corporate ranks, but according to the survey, 54 percent of women have never had other women help them advance in their careers. A full 9 percent say women have deliberately held them back from success. Is it the green monster of jealousy rearing its ugly head?

Some women hold themselves back from moving up the ranks. In the survey, 25 percent said a reluctance to sacrifice life and time for a job are what held them back. It’s all about what matters, and for many women, that isn’t holding a fancy job title.

Will Work for Flexibility

With today’s weak economy and high unemployment rate, 33 percent of women believe it’s career suicide to ask for more flexibility at work. While that number is still a little high, it means that more women (the remaining 67 percent) believe a balance between work and life is possible.

More and more jobs are providing the flexibility women (and some men, too) are seeking. Oftentimes, the flexibility comes from the fact that many people in these roles are self-employed and can set their own hours. Of those surveyed, 42 percent said they would consider owning their own business to achieve that flexibility. Here’s a sample of what we’re doing to achieve flexible worktime nirvana:

•    Personal Financial Advisor—approximately 35 percent are self-employed.   

•    Pharmacist—21 percent of pharmacists work part time.

•    Web Professional—the majority are self-employed freelancers/consultants.

•    Physical & Occupational Therapist—20 percent are self-employed full or part time.

•    Accountant—66 percent of members from American Institute of CPAs are sole practitioners.

•    Writer—the majority are self-employed.

•    Management Analyst—73 percent are self-employed.

•    Social Worker—15 percent operate a solo practice.

So what’s in store for the future? Will we see fewer women executives as a result of more wanting flexibility over responsibility and pay, or will we change the face of business completely, achieving a true balance of flexibility, happiness and money? With technology, it is becoming closer to a reality.

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues.