‘Part-Time’ needs a PR makeover

Part-time has a bad name, it sends a shiver down the spine of most employers.  It has disastrous connotations for careers, just ask any woman in banking and finance!  It even has its own syndrome resulting in ‘flexibility stigma’.  I want to know why, and whether we can simply re-brand, re-package and re-tell the part-time story.  Can’t we just give part-time a PR makeover?

While workplace flexibility has been incorporated into most workplaces it seems to remain under utilised for fear of negative career repercussions. There is research that confirms these fears; part-time workers experience lower wages, lower performance evaluations and fewer promotions.  Again, just ask any women working in banking and finance.  I am sure there is a stigma for men who access part-time employment but don’t they just call it ‘consulting’?  Further, it is not only employers who dish out the negative; it is fellow full-time employees who often drive the stigma.

My question is “why?”  I have worked part-time, casually, contracted, on-call… You name it, I’ve done it.  Except for one temp assignment in Edinburgh (another story… ) I have never not turned up, worked hard or importantly added value to the organisation that was paying me.

Joan C Williams who coined the term ‘flexibility stigma’ believes the negativity is deeply rooted in a centuries old work ethic based on being devoted to continuous and methodical work.  Part-timers are breaking the rules resulting in the punitive actions noted above but ultimately flexibility equals social disgrace.

Now, I do not have the time to investigate this question of morality.   I am going to be shallow and get back to my initial thought – lets just give it some spin!  Can’t we simply reinvent the term part-time?  I need it to be a 21st century mother and person.  It needs a new tag line and some solid re-branding that re-tell the flexibility story without the social stigma.   Please, can’t we just begin by re-branding part-time?

Posted by Felicity McLaughlin

BonnieSue Nevin

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