Women in the workplace need flexibility and engagement

12 Aug 2015 2 min read Article

The work life balance does not exist and life is a juggling act. However, flexibility can make the juggling easier and it is this flexibility, alongside an open dialogue, that is proving invaluable for career women who also want to be there for their families.

Natalie von Ey, a director in the Competition practice at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr explains, "My firm embraced and supported my request to work on a reduced hours basis so that I could spend afternoons with my children. This flexible hour arrangement with the firm has allowed me to to continue to make a valuable contribution at work, without giving up precious time with my family.

"There is no such thing as the work life balance, juggling work and family is a full time thing, and so finding ways to continue to work as well as to be there for the family is a challenge we all face each and every day. 

"Firms on the whole should be engaging with those who may  want more flexible working arrangements and the conversations should continue  after the arrangement is in place to ensure it is working for both sides. This is a way to ensure that good employees are not lost to workforce because those with families might feel they have no choice but to leave work. Women need to know that arrangements can be made to accommodate them to ensure their skills are not lost. These arrangement must be communicated openly  and they must be transparent and ongoing. In return firm's get to retain specialist talent while at the same time ensuring a happier workforce who will work just as hard as they did in a full time capacity."

Gillian Lumb, director and Cape Regional Employment Practice Head at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr notes that most working environments are traditionally resistant to change and tend to follow the dominant male friendly working culture.

"However, we are starting to see signs of change - flexible working hours and working from home scenarios backed by ever increasing advances in technology. These changes are the beginning of a shift to accommodate the many different needs of all employees. If women remain at the forefront of this shift by talking about their different needs in the working environment, this change will become the norm and the traditional working environment will give way to a happier, more accommodating workspace."

Thina Siwendu,  director in the Corporate and Commercial practice and corporate governance specialist, adds, “I have been very fortunate to have tried to balance motherhood with a legal career.  This balance often comes with  an unwelcome financial price that our male contemporaries don't have to endure. In this regard, the outmoded assumptions about family structure that women are secondary contributors to the household budget needs to be challenged.Yet, for me, nothing can compensate for that full and complete life, which is the juice that fuels the intellectual and creative aspects of my work."

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