A recent article appeared on LinkedIn with the original title, “I’m a Girl Who Codes, So Why Won’t Silicon Valley Hire Me?” by Emma Lozman Plumb. It began as an article on the author’s own struggle of not being able to find flexible work at a U.S. tech company despite having a degree from Stanford and in-demand skills. The article has since been edited and is now re-named, “Fixing Uber’s Failings with a Lesson from Its Successes” (read the full article here). For employees of the company valued at $69 Billion, Uber disclosed that 87% of drivers report taking the job in order “to be my own boss and set my own schedule.” 85% say they wanted “to have more flexibility in my schedule and balance my work with my life and family.” As many of us mimic this desire for flexible jobs, it may just be that the best strategy contributing to Uber’s success is being able to provide an employee mandated work schedule to its 160,000 American workers at just the right time.

In Plumb’s article, she mentions that in the past few years we’ve seen a rise in men leaving c-suite positions at tech companies such as MongoDB’s former CEO Max Schireson who publicized a blog about stepping down to attain better work-life balance. This is in addition to the 43% of highly-qualified women who leave their jobs after having children, the group which Plumb fits into after having chosen to stay at home part-time to raise her two-year old in rural Connecticut. Perusing through the over four hundred comments on the article I came across words such as entitlement and feminist in response to Plumb’s talentedly written job request. On the flip side, Gene, an Ex-Silicon Valley Executive wrote:

Despite whether or not the demands of the tech world are beginning to be too much, the sheer number of comments on this article alone begs the question: Is remote and flexible work a sense of entitlement or reality in 2017?

As a mother who mostly resides in a rural community in SE Wisconsin, there was a period of time in which the only way that I could work in my field was to make an hour and a half commute, each way, to downtown Chicago. At that time I would have completely commiserated with Barbara, a Head Hunter, who commented:

That said, I think there is a time early in your career where you do have to prove yourself and absolutely benefit more from being in an office to grow. Most of us make sacrifices and do what we have to do, but as the data backs up the need for long-term flexibility are these types of efforts even sustainable? In my case and for many others, they are not.

In fact, there are plenty of very good and practical reasons why middle-age and older adults cannot move from the places where they reside for employment. They include:

  • fiscal responsibility of house/mortgage payment
  • caring for children or elderly parents
  • health
  • geographic restrictions with kids from a previous marriage
  • recently let go from a long time employer and already established in their
    community
  • At the core of the question, it makes sense that most employers would want to hire local employees, who can rise to any occasion and not come with any of the typical personal or family ‘baggage’ that mature life seems to bring. Yet, according to 2015 data from the U.S. bureau of statistics, the average person will have held at least ten different jobs in their lifetime and that number is predicted to be rising. Isn’t it time to look that reality straight in the face and acknowledge that for many talented workers, relocating is often out of the question?

    As the landscape of opportunities and the way we work is changing, we no longer settle for or can attain lengthy careers at the local corporations as past generations did. This is true especially if we have worked hard, gone to college and laid the groundwork for a successful career. Perhaps that is precisely where the sense of entitlement comes in, where as because she had done that the author was asking for Silicon Valley to cater to her and not the other way around. Is it the making of the new American dream?

    Trust me, I am not of a mindset that anyone owes you anything, but at some point, I believe you have proven yourself and your credentials. So maybe it makes sense to hire a part-time remote graduate from Stanford over sending another over-educated person into the Uber driving pool (as an example; she’s not actually driving for Uber). This article and its responses articulate that the high demand for flexible work is here. I applaud Mrs. Plumb for publishing what turned out to be a pretty controversial article. You can support her cause as she now works as Director of 1 Million for Work Flexibility (join the movement!).

    Lastly, the most astute comment I came across does well to explain why it came about that younger generations are looking for more flexibility and how companies should respond to the new employee. Nancy in Government/Stakeholder Relations wrote:

    What do you think? Do employers need to be more flexible to meet emmerging trends? Comment below.

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