Knowledge Center

Flexible Work Arrangements III: A Ten-Year Retrospective

This study presents a ten-year look at the work experiences of pioneering women who have used reduced work schedules. The 24 women in this current study provide insight into the choices and consequences of flexible work arrangements and how careers, career goals, and the arrangements themselves evolve over time.

Impetus: In 1989, Catalyst began examining the experiences of managers and professionals using part-time arrangements to understand the long-term impact on their careers. In addition, we sought to understand the success factors for individuals and organizations in effectively implementing flexibility.


  • Catalyst worked to locate the 78 participants from our initial 1989 study, including the 45 who participated again in 1993. We located and interviewed 26 people (24 women and 2 men) and conducted a literature review.

  • Catalyst conducted interviews with human resources professionals from 9 of the 11 companies and professional services firms represented by the participants.

Findings: Virtually all of the women in this study credit the availability of part-time work schedules with their ability to remain in the workforce while they managed increased family responsibilities. One-half of the women in this study (12 of 24) have returned to full-time work schedules. More than one-half (13) have earned promotions while working part time with some having to return to full time to take on the increased responsibilities. Most of the women are satisfied with the career trade-offs they made to gain better work/life balance. All of the current part-time professionals and 8 of the 12 full-time professionals are satisfied with their current work schedules. Most participants (16) feel that working part time ensures that they are having, as one woman said, the “best of it all.”

Sponsor: McDonald’s Corporation