Adapting Employment Practices to Women's Life Cycle
Whatever may happen in the longer run, it is clear from the evidence brought together in Part Three that in the immediate future only a small proportion of well-qualified married women are likely to work full-time during the years when they have small children. Most intend to take a more or less long break while they have children under nursery school age, or at least to cut their work commitments drastically. Many intend to work for less than a standard working week when their children are over this age but still growing up. Many, like those whose evidence is collected in Working Wonders, never intend to return to full standard working hours at all, or at any rate (whatever the total number of hours they work) to let themselves be bound by standard starting, finishing, or holiday times. Those who do intend to work full hours according to standard timetables may still be reluctant to accept undefined commitments to overtime or to coping with out-of-hours emergencies.
The fact that many women limit their time commitments in these ways does not imply that they are less committed than men to a lifetime career. Employers in the past assumed, rightly, that in most parts of Britain--the textile districts were the chief exception--and at all levels of work only those women could be relied on as lifetime workers who were single, widowed, or separated and were beyond the normal age for marriage or re-marriage. This is no longer true of women at any level of qualification, and least of all, as has been shown, of women with high qualifications. Among highly qualified women in Britain today it is those who do not intend to work in middle age and towards retirement who are the exceptions; and this is as true of the normal woman who married and has children and a stable family life as of the exceptional woman who does not.
But though the services of highly qualified women with a normal family life are today likely to be available to employers over the full span of a working life, they are likely to be available on a timetable different from that of a man. A successful young male executive will