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Intellect

New research explores professional women restructuring job and family

How to integrate both without sacrificing job status and pay

Families with plenty to feast on are facing another kind of famine – time. Today's dual-earner couple now has a combined work time of 91 hours per week. The long hours make it difficult for professional women with small children to successfully integrate work and family responsibilities. While it is not uncommon for these women to bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and then… change a diaper, run to soccer practice and fax a business proposal, it is often accompanied by great sacrifice – not to mention fatigue.

New research from Brigham Young University, published in the current issue of "Journal of Family and Economic Issues," investigates how the growing trend of "new-concept, part-time employment," is helping professional women battle the time famine and companies win the war for talent.

In contrast with typical part-time jobs, these custom hour positions are high-status, career-oriented, reduced-hours options that maintain prorated professional salaries and benefits. These new-concept, part-time positions reach a large segment of professional women who previously were not willing to work part-time because they would have to sacrifice status, pay and opportunity.

"While part-time work has always been an option, many professional women did not view it as a viable choice because often these jobs were of lower status, with less pay and fewer career opportunities," said E. Jeffrey Hill, BYU professor and lead researcher.

"However, the new-concept, part-time option allows professional women greater opportunity to customize their work while preserving job status and family life, not to mention they earn slightly more per hour than those in full-time professional positions."

According to the research, professional women with preschool-age children who worked in these new-concept, part-time positions reported working approximately 47 percent fewer hours per week with only a 41 percent reduction in personal income. They also reported greater harmony between work and family responsibilities.

For the part-time professionals, this translated into a reduction of 23 hours of work per week. "A real benefit is that these extra hours enable these women to get sufficient sleep, recreation, and other renewal activities to avoid the burnout often associated with raising preschoolers while forging ahead in a professional career," explained Hill. "Of course, the extra time for the primary care of their children is highly valued by these mothers and may be renewing in and of itself."

Other findings include significantly more flexibility than full-time employees in the time and place they work and, surprisingly, no significant differences in career opportunity.

"Overall, new-concept, part-time work can facilitate greater work-life harmony for professional women with preschool-age children," Hill said. "And, if companies want to avoid losing this valuable talent pool, it is important that they make the new-concept, part-time option more available to their employees."

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