With flexibility, we can do both. Or either. It all comes down to choice.
A few years ago, Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes infamously appeared on Fox News with an outrageous, yet-all-too-common claim: women are paid less and occupy fewer leadership positions because they would rather be at home with their children than working late at the office.
He even went so far as to say that it's “nature's way" of saying “women should be at home with the kids" because “they're happier there." When analyst Tamara Holder chimed in, McInnes fired back saying she was making a mistake by sitting at the news desk and would be much happier as a full-time stay-at-home mom. (ICYMI, you can watch the video clip here.)
McInnes's comments quickly went viral, but he's not the first person to make this claim—and he certainly won't be the last. The false idea that all women are inherently less ambitious than men is deeply rooted in our culture. That's not to say every woman dreams of becoming CEO or the first female POTUS.
However, recent data shows that the vast majority of women who become parents are just as likely to aspire to positions of leadership as female co-workers without children, and working moms are 2.5 times more likely to change jobs for a promotion or for higher pay than those without children.
Also worth noting is that a significant number of mothers end up taking pay cuts in exchange for more flexible hours, which confirms what we already knew—women don't just want flexibility, they need it. Their success depends upon it.
These findings prove that the gender gap isn't caused by a lack of ambition, as McInnes and so many others claim, but rather a lack of work-life compatibility. Of the 30% of credentialed women who leave the workforce entirely after having a child, an overwhelming majority—70%!—say they would have kept working if they had access to flexibility.
If we're going to finally change these misconceptions and close the gender gap for good, we must fundamentally change the structure of work so it's compatible with the lives of ALL women.
Flexibility must become an integral part of every job across every single industry—not just a perk or an afterthought or something women have to prove they deserve. Flexibility is not a reduction in scope, responsibilities or expected results. In fact, employees who have access to flexibility are more productive and less likely to quit.
So let's stop making women choose between care and career. With flexibility, we can do both. Or either. It all comes down to choice—and we support all women no matter what choice they make.
This article originally appeared on Werk.