two European trade organizations are proposing a measure that could radically change that work culture: shortening the stock market's trading hours.
Workplaces and the financial system were designed by men, for men. And not just any men: men who either had few familial burdens, or whose home lives were one hundred percent separate from the demands of the work day. Work designed around these men created the perfect patriarchal storm: markets that operate for the whole of the work day, and employee hours that extend long beyond the opening and closing bells. Implicit in most finance jobs is the expectation that employees prioritize work above all else, which doesn't allow them the time they need to invest in their families or communities. But two European trade organizations are proposing a measure that could radically change that work culture: shortening the stock market's trading hours. It's a major structural shift designed to draw more women into the industry, Fortune explains, and it may be just the thing to make finance more flexible and family-friendly, doing what decades of women's empowerment initiatives couldn't.
Right now, European markets operate from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Association for Financial Markets in Europe and the Investment Association, two trade groups, are proposing shortening up the trading day by an hour at each end. Imagine, for a moment, that your workday was shortened up too, and ran from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.: it's time enough to drop your children at school, exercise, squeeze in an errand and prepare dinner, attend a community event and (especially if you banish time-sucking, inessential meetings) get all your work done.
Diversity and flexible work initiatives have made positive change around the margins of our workplaces for decades. But their adoption, perception, and impact varies widely from company to company. If companies aren't careful in how they highlight difference, women -- or anyone with caregiving duties -- can end up feeling othered and relegated into a separate room. Given the choice, many in corporate America don't take advantage of diversity and flexible work initiatives that could make their lives better, for fear of appearing uncommitted to their jobs.
But when you build flexibility into the bedrock of how work operates, you destigmatize it. It becomes normal for everyone -- men and women, people of all backgrounds -- to prioritize family and community. You would, I suspect, get higher employee satisfaction, lower turnover rates, and higher productivity. A diverse, flexible workplace wouldn't be something you have to fight for -- take the element of choice away, and greater work-life balance can be enjoyed by all and stigmatize none.
Reducing stock market trading hours is a powerful initiative for people who work the markets, but it doesn't solve gender inequities embedded in other fields. Of course, those inequities aren't static: just look at medicine, where an industry-wide trend towards consolidation has, by happy accident, turned being a doctor into a family-friendly profession.
So, business leaders, I challenge you to do one better: to consider the structural inequities built into your workspaces, workdays, and work lives. Don't just buy a table and take out a color ad in a program celebrating a women's advancement event; don't just create initiatives for new parents, or bring in famous women leaders to speak and inspire. Pick up your institutional sledgehammer, tear it all down, and build a better system with everyone in the room. We all deserve it.