One of my biggest struggles as a parent looking for work has been finding a part-time job. There are plenty out there, of course. Cashier, cook, babysitter…
“It’s time that we put the clock at the heart of this debate,” says Jody Greenstone Miller in this article, and I agree.
I may be exaggerating, but the truth of it is that the corporate world is built on the 60 to 80 hour a week model. This makes it hard for people who would like to build their careers while they build their families. Even 40 hours a week, the standard full-time schedule, is too much for many.
Some have leadership ambitions, but don’t care for the fast-paced environment. Some want to earn some money, but can’t find a part-time job paying much more than the cost of child care. Or maybe they want to find intellectual stimulation outside their homes, but the only available part-time jobs are low-skill ones.
I do know some exceptions, of course. Most people I’ve met with part-time positions have negotiated a schedule with fewer hours after working for their companies for several years. It’s much easier to get flexibility of any kind when you’ve already proven your dependability and trustworthiness.
But what about the rest of us? The ones who have been out of the workforce for a few years or the ones who want to change careers? Or those whose bosses can’t conceptualize a less-than-full-time position?
Miller presents her tips for re-configuring work as a solution for “making… firms magnets for the huge swath of American talent now sitting on the sidelines”.
She’s right. This study of Harvard MBAs suggests that many women are opting out of the workforce to take care of their children. I’m not saying that SAHM(Stay At Home Mom)-hood is a bad thing, but many careers in the business world require such long hours that they are often incompatible with parenthood, so that many parents end up at home when they might have chosen otherwise if they had more options.
There are plenty of parents who would work and who could make valuable contributions to their workplaces if they didn’t have to sacrifice so much family time in order to do so. Miller says we need to think of work in terms of quality, rather than quantity.
I agree. I would love to see more jobs advertised as a “possible job share” or “hours negotiable” or even “20-30 hour position” instead of the standard full-time offerings. I would love to see job descriptions get detailed enough so they could easily be split. I would love to see employers reevaluate their numbers of part-time workers and see what they could do to boost those numbers. I don’t think it would be too hard to compare wages of full-time vs. part-time workers to see if part-time workers are getting shortchanged. Benefits can be prorated and part-time workers can be given equal consideration in the promotion pool.
It’s not that hard to be inclusive of people who have families. Parenthood doesn’t have to make people less committed to their jobs, even if it does mean they have less time to give to work. If more employers sought out part-time workers, I think they’d find lots of smart men and women lining up to apply.