Closing the Gender Gap Through Flex-Work

As part of the ongoing effort to close the gender pay gap, one Harvard University economist suggests greater flex-work opportunities could aid that cause.

“The gender gap in pay would be considerably reduced and might even vanish if firms did not have an incentive to disproportionately reward individuals who worked long hours and who worked particular hours,” wrote Harvard economist Claudia Goldin in her recent report, “A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter.”

Current numbers show that, on average, a woman earns 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

Women’s overall participation in the workforce is reduced by childbirth. Women with children work 24 percent fewer hours per week than men or women without children, according to the report.
However, young children have a lesser effect on women who work in the technology industry, which is generally associated with greater gender equality in earnings than other industries, according to the report.

Jody Thompson, co-founder of CultureRx and co-developer of the Results-Only Work Environment, agrees with Goldin’s study. She said because of the flexibility offered by ROWE, her business partner Cali Ressler has been able to have three children without needing to take time off work or sacrifice time away from her children.

“Everybody just supports each other, and you just keep going. I never thought of her as doing less. I just did more of the physical stuff and she did more of the nonphysical stuff for a while,” Thompson said. “Everybody just picks up other things and adjusts around it.”
E&Y’s combination of flexibility and paid maternity leave policies offers additional support for Goldin’s argument.

“It has made a big difference in how successful our women have been,” said Maryella Gockel, Flexibility Strategy Leader at the company formerly known as Ernst & Young. “In the mid-1990s we had very few women in the partnership — about 5 percent — and now we have 19 percent. Women now make up 34 percent of our senior leaders in the Americas. We have five women on the operating board in the Americas now, and back in the ’90s we had none.”

Max Mihelich is an associate editor at Diversity Executive. He can be reached at

This article originally appeared in Diversity Executive’s sister publication, Workforce.