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Meeting the Needs of Women in the Workplace

Identifying best practices, barriers and limitations in achieving work-life balance.

As we celebrate Women’s History Month, I want to highlight the Office of Personnel Management’s commitment to ensuring that all women—and men—are offered the flexibilities they need to be productive, satisfied members of the Federal workforce. OPM encourages agencies to help their employees balance the needs of their lives inside and outside of work.

In January, President Obama signed a memorandum titled, Modernizing Federal Leave Policies for Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care to Recruit and Retain Talent and Improve Productivity.  It directs agencies to advance federal workers up to six weeks’ paid sick leave to care for a new child or ill family member. In his State of the Union address, the president also called on Congress to enact legislation to provide federal workers with up to six weeks of paid parental leave.

The president’s memorandum builds on this past June’s White House Summit on Working Families, an event that explored a variety of issues important to working families, including workplace flexibility. OPM is contributing to these efforts by developing a handbook on Leave for Pregnancy, Childbirth, Adoption, and Foster Care. I believe it is important for federal employees and their managers to fully understand our policies related to family life events. We do not want women to feel that they must choose between their responsibilities to their family and their obligations to their careers.

To develop the handbook, we are partnering with federal agencies to gather information on existing workplace flexibilities and work-life programs. OPM is asking agency leave experts to identify common questions and misconceptions. This summer, we will analyze the data we receive and send a report to the president. This document will describe best practices, barriers, and limitations in achieving work-life balance. It also will suggest possible solutions to roadblocks that working families encounter.

OPM has long had in place policies that make it easier for women to meet their full career potential. We’ve created flexible work schedules, expanded sick leave to include caring for family members who are ill, developed telework policies, and come closer to eliminating the gender pay gap.

Sensible workplace polices like these are an integral part of OPM’s Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion—or REDI—roadmap. REDI provides agencies with the tools to attract, hire, promote, and retain top talent for the federal government and build a model workforce now, and the future.

Our work-life policies are continually evolving to make the balance of caring for families and pursuing a career complementary, rather than contradictory. The women who have come before us have set an incredible example of dedicated federal service. We hope to honor their contributions by doing all that we can to meet the needs of women today.

(Image via rzoze19/Shutterstock.com)

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