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Working Moms and Flexibility in the Workplace

Full-time work is losing its luster among working moms, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center. Instead, they prefer part-time work: 60 percent of working moms rate part-time work as their ideal, up from 48 percent in 1997, according to the survey. At-home moms also have shown a change of heart. In 1997, 24 percent said full-time work away from home would be best; that number has dipped to 16 percent.

So what's driving this shift?

All Roads Lead to Flexibility

Pew didn't ask women why they preferred certain work situations over others. But a Miami Herald article touched on a possible reason:

... one expert says the notable shift reflects a new generation of working mothers who want flexibility. Ellen Galinsky, president of the Families and Work Institute, a nonprofit research group, said she reached conclusions similar to the Pew study -- and linked the change to the arrival of Generation X.

''We found that the younger people are more family-centric than Boomers are,'' Galinsky said. She also feels many working mothers may be rejecting overload. "People also are working longer and harder than in the past.''

It's quite possible moms are more interested in part-time work because they want greater work-life balance and flexibility--more than one of my sources has indicated working moms are increasingly searching for flexibility. (See past coverage here, past blog on flexibility here.) I've also fielded comments that support Galinsky's statement about Generation X. Generations X and Y are less willing than baby boomers once were to invest in workweeks that constantly top 60 hours and bleed into the weekends, some experts have said.

What remains to be seen is how employers respond to working moms and flexibility in the workplace.

Working moms and at-home moms, what do you think the survey results suggest?

Highlights of the Pew Survey

In addition to moms' rising interest in part-time work, Pew numbers show a split between working moms and at-home moms on whether more moms working outside the home is good or bad for society. In 1997, 38 percent of at-home moms and 39 percent of working moms saw it as a bad trend. Today, 44 percent of at-home moms see it as bad, and half as many (22 percent) think it's good; working moms are nearly evenly divided, with 34 percent saying it's good, 34 percent saying it's bad, and 31 percent staying neutral.

And while 60 percent of moms say part-time work would be ideal, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows only 24 percent of all working moms with part-time jobs, according to Pew.

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