Is it the Kids or the Schedule?: The Incremental Effect of Families and Flexible Scheduling on Perceived Career Success
15 Pages Posted: 7 Mar 2008 Last revised: 9 Oct 2009
Flexible work arrangements (FWAs) are widely offered in public accounting as a tool to retain valued professional staff. Previous research has shown that participants in FWAs are perceived to be less likely to succeed in their careers in public accounting than individuals in public accounting who do not participate in FWAs (Cohen and Single 2001). Research has also documented an increasing backlash against family-friendly policies in the workplace as placing unfair burdens on individuals without children.
Building directly on a previous study in this journal (Cohen and Single 2001), this study addresses the issue of whether the documented perceptions toward FWA participants are the result of electing to take part in the FWA or the result of bias against employees with children. The research questions are addressed in a 3 x 2 experimental setting in which we manipulate FWA participation, along with family status and gender of a hypothetical manager in a public accounting firm. Our findings indicate that FWA participants are viewed as less likely to advance and as less committed than individuals without children or individuals who had children but who were not taking part in a FWA. Male FWA participants are viewed as less likely to succeed than female FWA participants. This effect appears to arise from a perception that FWA participants are willing to make sacrifices in their careers to accommodate family needs and thus may not be as committed to making the sacrifices perceived as necessary to meet the rigorous demands of the public accounting environment. This raises the ethical question of what could be done to change the milieu in public accounting to foster a substantive support system for individuals who want to balance a family and a career.
Keywords: Flexible work arrangements, Gender issues in public accounting, ethics
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