Women Seek Flexible Jobs

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Jennifer Maler has always danced to the beat of her own drummer. She's single and a self-described free spirit.

Brenda McAuliffe is married with three children. Her free time is family time.

"I've kind of put priorities around when I want to be home, and I've managed my work schedule around that," McAuliffe told CBS News Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi.

Here's what Brenda and Jennifer have in common: They're both accountants; they're both rising stars at the same company; and neither works nine to five.

"Working full time, it was great," Maler said. "I loved everything I was doing but it was a little too much, too many hours. I wanted a balance."

"Balance" is the new buzzword for women who don't want to be forced to choose between work and life. They don't necessarily want what's been called the "mommy track," either. These women want meaningful careers and promotions. And some companies are changing to keep them around.

"We were hiring 50 percent women and 50 percent men and then women were leaving us more often than the men," said Deborah Holmes, from Ernst & Young's Center for the New Workforce.

Accounting giant Ernst & Young asked what it would take to keep women from leaving. Topping women's wish list: Flexible work options, including reduced schedules and compressed work weeks.

"Gone are the days when your workforce could be counted to come in in the morning and sit at their desks all day long," Holmes said. "And if you can't figure that out, you aren't going to be drawing from the top talent."

Linda Meric, who works as an Executive Director at the 9 to 5 National Association of Working Women, said, "Not nearly enough companies have family friendly policies."

Meric warns that there's a difference between family-friendly and "mommy track." And, she says, a company just creating options for women isn't enough.

"But many times they discourage employees from utilizing the policies or actually punish employees when they use them by slowing down their career advancement path," Meric said.

But Holmes says these policies are saving her company $10 million annually, and many women are now staying at a higher rate than men.

"I'm very, very happy," Maler said of her job at Ernst & Young. "I feel like the flexibility keeps me here."

Maler and McAuliffe have both been promoted since beginning their flexible work schedules. McAuliffe's been made partner, and has learned a thing or two about juggling clients and commitments.

"No one really needs to know exactly where you are," McAuliffe said.

Alfonsi asked: "But you say 'conflict,' you don't say 'I have a class meeting?'"

"No," McAuliffe replied. "Why do they need to know that?"

Companies have found that flexibility at work leads to higher morale, increased productivity and better retention rates.

And for many women, that is just the icing on the cake.