Throughout her career, Holly Wolf has faced certain issues relatable to many professional women without children.
An idea still persists in some workplaces that childless women do not need to take extra time off, like Christmas Eve or the time between Christmas Day and the New Year. If anything, women without children are expected to do more. There is the thought that these same women can stay behind and work late on projects, because they do not have kids. It’s a dangerous lifestyle implication, according to Wolf.
“It implies that any plans you have are not nearly as important as others,” Wolf says. “I do agree that parenting is the top responsibility, but there should be a balance with those who don’t have children.”
What’s the best way to support women without children in the workplace?
As a single, working woman who has no children, I do not have more hours in the day than colleagues with kids. I detest the negative stereotypes that exist about single women, especially that we supposedly have no lives of our own because we have not created, or not yet created, families. Nobody, from interns to management, has any real immunity from gossip at work.
What can truly be done to address this issue that sticks in so many workplaces? It is, unfortunately, still a pipe dream in the United States that there should be wage fairness for all genders, so scratch “fair pay” off the list. And benefits like egg freezing only strangle the chokehold corporations have on single female employees to stick around and “earn” their right to become mothers.
Ultimately, what employers must do to show their respect for the time and productivity women without children put into their work is to create an inclusive company culture. Better policies and processes allow employers to reestablish their identities and build a beneficial company culture for all.
Company culture built for everyone’s work-life balance.
In any given organization, all employees should coexist in a culture of time and productivity, according to author and productivity expert Julie Morgenstern. This is not a want; It’s a need. A strong company culture allows everyone to feel satisfied, creative and fulfilled, regardless of their position on the team. The rules should not differ by age, gender or family status. The only rule that should be applicable to everyone is the opportunity to spend time outside of work focusing on outside interests and relationships.
Does this sound like proper work-life balance to you? It should! Morgenstern says that one of the most important things companies can do for employees is to define the company’s values around work-life balance for all. Then, reinforce it through visible policies and processes.
Work-life balance policies that work — and what doesn’t work — for childless women.
What sorts of work-life balance-inspired policies and processes are effective for all employees? Which are not? Morgenstern advises building the topic of work-life balance into staff and development meetings.
“This should be a regular check-in point,” Morgenstern says. “Make it a part of the company culture to share what people are doing for fun and relaxation in the evenings and on the weekends.”
Why work-life balance must be visible.
Once a business has built a company culture where everyone is treated equally, whether they have children or not, work-life balance must become visible. Each employer should communicate with all employees to determine their priorities and create schedules that provide the individual with time off expectations.
This means more than getting to recharge. Visible schedules, and work-life balance establishment, ensures that women without children are not guilted into doing more work. Nobody is guilted into doing more work than anyone else — period.
“The more visible and explicit the values and expectations are around work-life balance for all employees, the harder it is for single employees to ‘volunteer’ to fill in the gaps for their married colleagues with kids,” Morgenstern says.
“That’s a win-win for all,” adds Morgenstern.