shaking hands

The Gap Years

These aren’t the years students take off between high school and college. We’re talking about the years when many women find themselves either taking a step back in their careers or leaving the workforce altogether because their full-time role is no longer the most valuable need of their time.graph- 2,000 hours of parents at work, 1,200 hours of children at school, leaves 800 hour gap

A full-time position requires at least 2,000 working hours each year. K12 students are in school approximately 1,200 hours per year. We have after school care, nannies, summer programs, camps, and a multitude of other ways to make up those 800 hours that children need to be cared for outside school hours. BUT, what happens when women (in this case, moms) aren’t fulfilled – either monetarily or otherwise – at work enough to justify the cost of those programs?

These are the gap years.

To improve gender equality at the tops of our organizations, more opportunities have to be given to women who are interested in staying on their career trajectory even through those gap years. The challenge here is that life happens! Sometimes life presents choices that make the idea of staying on the same trajectory unappealing. Both men and women face these, but women tend to be the ones who stay home with children, who take care of an ailing parent, or who move for a spouse’s job.One way we can provide more fulfilling roles for women to stay on their career trajectory is by offering more flexibility to both women and men. Setting the standard as a manager that flexibility is valued means that more women may choose to stay on a path towards an executive role. It also allows more men to share in the weight of the gap years.

I recently sat down with Marcy Fleming, Director of HR at the University of Oklahoma, to ask her how we can provide more flexible roles within our individual areas. While these opportunities are specific to OU there are most likely similar strategies in other industries and universities. HR is a valuable partner for finding new opportunities to hire non-traditional roles. Marcy and her team are incredibly interested in helping departments meet those unique needs.

Project-Based Work

Read more here about why project-based work is an excellent opportunity to keep more women in their careers who are interested in doing so.

We have two very easy ways to hire for project-based work at OU.

  1. Contract work – Typically thought of as the traditional project-based role, hiring independent contractors works well for people who already have a consulting firm or other business set up.
  2. Temporary role – While you may not traditionally think of a temporary role for this kind of work, it’s actually one of the easiest and most efficient ways to hire. The position can pay an hourly rate set by the department, it’s very easy for an individual to register as a temporary employee, and hiring the employee is just as easy. One caveat at OU Is that this position has to go through the hiring freeze exemption process.

Job sharing and alternate schedules

Either in a traditional job-share model or by splitting a full-time job into multiple roles, it’s sometimes hard to know exactly what you’re looking for until you can interview candidates and find out what employee opportunities exist.

Diana Biggerstaff, Associate Director for HR at OU, had some great advice for posting a job that may be able to be full time or part time depending on the candidates.

  1. Fill out the hiring freeze exemption form and job description with the highest level broadband title that this job might use. You can always change the broadband title before hiring, but only to a level lower than what has already been approved.
  2. There may also be opportunities to split a job into multiple jobs after a freeze form has been approved, but you’ll need to work on with HR to discuss options.
  3. If you work with HR up front they can post the same position as a full time position and as a part time position to attract a broad range of candidates who may be using search features on the job site.
  4. If applicable, start the job description with a note to indicate that the role may be flexible in schedule, hours, etc. This may attract more attention from people who aren’t able to commit to a traditional schedule.

Flexible schedules is just one way in which we can help promote gender equality at the top of an organization, but it’s a very specific way in which we as managers can move the needle. While women are constantly given tools and tips to become strong female leaders, we also have to make an impact as those who hire and set the standard for our organizations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *