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Editor's Agenda

The “fabulous” workforce of part-time employees

/ Feb 14, 2013 9:29AM / Print / ()

While serving as the chief executive of ANZ New Zealand, Dr Jenny Fagg would spend half a day a week on what she called "women's work".

"Some of my male counterparts said 'you're crazy'" she told a Chief Executive Women breakfast last week.

But Fagg knew such work was significant for improving the retention and productivity of staff in the business. "I think there's this hidden, fabulous workforce of part-time women," she said. "That workforce that no one else has tapped into of highly qualified women."

It's was an opportunity too good to miss for Fagg during her time at ANZ.

And yet plenty of businesses miss such opportunities every day.

Flexible and part-time working arrangements are vital for women in middle management, with a cohort of women particularly vulnerable to dropping off the corporate ladder, new research has found.

While plenty of organisations are working to make such arrangements accessible, just as vital for women is the ability to continue a career while accessing such arrangements. Also vital is enabling women to put their foot on and off the career accelerator, depending on their personal preferences and current life stage.

As the CEW and Bain & Co study primarily found, women need to see other women at the top in order to believe their company has an inclusive culture and supports a range of leadership styles. Seeing role models ahead of them allows women

in the middle stages of their career to receive a career confidence boost.

But surely when it comes to working arrangements these women at the top can't all be clones of each other: women who've all worked full-time, give or take a couple of short career breaks, all their lives. They need to be women who can demonstrate that pursuing part-time and flexible work opportunities for a sustained period does not result in a career dead-end.

They are women who could prove to their business just how much untapped potential exists in the part-time workforce, and demonstrate to both the men and women coming up the corporate ladder behind them that a successful career does not necessarily mean 40 years of five-day working weeks in the office.

We need leading women – and men – to personally prove that a successful career is not one-size-fits-all when it comes to the amount of hours you need to invest in order to get to the top.

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