In the July/August issue of The Atlantic, Hanna Rossin writes about “The End of Men,” in an article that describes the unprecedented role reversal currently underway between the sexes, and its vast cultural and societal implications.

Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. And, of the job categories that are projected to grow most quickly in the next ten years—nursing, home health assistance, child care, and food preparation, among others—most of them are occupied primarily by women. This shift has hit the working class most painfully, especially in light of the recent recession and decline in manufacturing and construction jobs.

The shift, however, is not only confined to the working class. Most mangers are now women, too. Women dominate today’s colleges and professional schools, and the article notes that for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same.

From the article:

“According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women now hold 51.4 percent of managerial and professional jobs, and this is up from 26.1 percent in 1980. They make up 54 percent of all accountants, and have half of all banking and insurance jobs. About a third of America’s physicians are now women, as are 45 percent of associates in law firms—and both those percentages are rising fast. A white collar economy values raw intellectual horsepower, which men and women have in equal amounts. Perhaps most important, it increasingly requires formal education credentials, which women are more prone to acquire, particularly early in adulthood.”

Rossin makes the argument that the postindustrial society and economy we now have may be more favorable to women’s participation in it than in the past.

From the article:

“The postindustrial economy is indifferent to men’s size and strength. The attributes that are most valuable today—social intelligence, open communication, the ability to sit still and focus—are, at a minimum, not predominantly male…For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if the modern, post-inudstrial society is simply better suited to women?”

We are seeing examples of this across the globe, from women in call centers in India and private businesses being started by women in China, to female politicians in the U.S., Iceland, and Germany, to name a few.

Yet, although women are breaking through barriers and glass ceilings, challenges remain. In the U.S., a wage-gap still exists, and women still do most of the house-work and child-rearing. And, there are still extremely few women CEOs and female particpation in the top of the jobs pyramid. Only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are women, and the number has never risen much above that. However, there are signs these conventions may be changing.

The lack of women at the top in business is now referred to as a “brain drain,” and a “crisis of talent retention.” More and more businesses are realizing the potential of workplace flexibility to harness the talent of women and new moms and keep them in the workforce. Indeed, workplace flexibility has become accepted by leading businesses as a valuable talent management and retention tool, not only to allow their female employees to manage their family lives, but also to enable workers go to school while working, thus developing critical talent in their workforce.

Corporate Voices has long championed workplace flexibility as a management tool, and has helped the business community establish flexible workplace arrangements with its toolkits and studies. It published “Business Impacts of Flexibility: An Imperative for Expansion,” and also published a report showing these impacts also applied to hourly workers.  Both these studies show that workplace flexibility policies increase worker productivity and engagement, reduce turnover, and increase employee retention.

As women continue to build their presence in the workforce, both in hourly and professional positions, we encourage businesses to embrace workplace flexibility as a critical practice that will ensure business competitiveness and success in the 21st century.