According to Carvajal (2004, pg. 1), "But tigresses multitask. They hunt and also raise cubs. And so Ireland, which has one of the highest birthrates in Europe, is becoming a place where demographic trends are forcing companies to experiment with flexible working arrangements, ones that allow female employees to accommodate bosses and babies and lifestyles. The result is often a complete cafeteria of choices, from job-sharing and telecommuting to on-site child care and company-sponsored summer camps."
The equal treatment of men and women in the workforce seems to be a problem throughout the globe. Traditionally, statistics show that men are paid more and hold higher, more prestigious positions than women do. However, competing more effectively with men also involves other aspects of fair treatment.
One of these aspects is job flexibility, such as the ability to work at home. In a recent survey, "The early results surprised the company. A huge amount of the men preferred a flexible form of working at home. And when we surveyed the workers, we found that a large proportion of people used the extra time they gained to be with their families or to do more volunteer work" (Carvajal, 2004). It has also been noted that men fear losing opportunities such as promotions when they choose to work at home, but that women tend to prefer the flexibility so much that they are not so concerned with that aspect (Carvajal, 2004).
According to Carvajal (2004, pg. 1), "A major challenge will be to avoid a twin track in which men are in the fast lane involving continuous and often excessive hours in full-time employment, partly from home, and women are in the slow lane working reduced hours," wrote Ellen Drew of Trinity College's Centre for Gender and Women's Studies, in a study of Irish company work-life policies. Otherwise, she says, flexible work may become the preserve of "mothers of young children" - and something to be avoided by other ambitious employees."
Family-Friendly Work Practices
In times past, Irish mothers could turn to the grandparents of their children for fully reliable baby-sitting services while they attended work. However, times have changed. Now, many of those grandparents are also entering the workforce, leaving a heavy need for family-friendly work practices. "Some companies have taken notice. Intel Ireland, a unit of the big computer-chip maker, has adopted many strategies, beginning with gifts of Intel baby hampers to employees who are new parents. IBM in Ireland offers "mobile-working" from remote locations and is about to introduce job-sharing" (Carvajal, 2004, pg. 1).
Disadvantages and advantages in this arena apply to the companies, too. High job turnover due to a lack of programs to balance family and work life can cost a company big bucks in training, hiring, and other expenses. "So three years ago, Eircom started studying the issue of balancing work and personal life. A varied program emerged last year that offered telecommuting, day-care support, sabbaticals, job-sharing and special leave for domestic purposes. Both men and women tried out the choices" (Carvajal, 2004, pg. 1).
Staying at Home
In Ireland, the number of telecommuting positions was up 44 percent in 2004 from 36 percent in 2002. The number