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by Robin J. Ely and Irene Padavic

Flexible work arrangements are widely championed as remedies for the dearth of women in senior leadership positions. Women “opt-out” when the demands of work and family conflict, so letting them telecommute or work part time facilitates work-life balance, allowing them to stay on the career track. Or so the narrative goes.

In reality, the success of these “family-friendly” policies has been uneven. They are often underused — and for good reason. Research shows that employees who take advantage of “flex” policies are typically removed from the fast track, derailing their career progress. Moreover, these programs have not increased the number of women in senior leadership roles.

Perhaps this is because they do not solve the right problem.

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