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The Part-time Paradox: Time Norms, Professional Life, Family and Gender

Cynthia Epstein

The Part-time Paradox explores the conflict and tension between the time demands of career and family life, and the choice of part-time work as a solution. The changing demographics of the family and the work place make it increasingly difficult for both men and women to meet the escalating time pressures facing a doctor, lawyer or manager. This book examines the social problems associated with demanding work schedules and choices, and also illustrates successful alternatives to full-time employment. It draws on interviews with attorneys in large law firms, in-house corporate counsels, and government service in order to explore the multiple dimensions of the part-time work solution. Although attitudes are beginning to change, one of the greatest impediments to part-time work is the stigma attached to it in many organizations, and the consequences for the careers of individuals who take it. Professionals define themselves, in part, by their commitment to overtime. The authors reveal how cultural perspectives of the 'true professional,' part-time work, and stereotypes about gender roles can influence both an individual's decision making process and office policy. They show that in an environment where professionals perceive part-time work as deviant, it may require not just perserverance, but also a trade-off between time flexibility and professional status. The authors consider issues ranging from job security and the consequences of new technology, to the economics of part-time work and the division of labor in the family. The Part-time Paradox provides a timely overview of a growing crisis, as part-time and flex-time work arrangements increase.

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