career decisions / career development

Coping mechanisms to mitigate the impact that part-time work might have on your career

Mind the (pay) gap!

In the UK women face a gender pay gap of 15%[1] leading to a pension gap of over 30%[2]. These gaps are rooted in complex causes[3], with a part-time work ‘motherhood penalty’[4] being one of the contributing factors.[5] Recently, as part of the University of Warwick’s SPRINT programme, Dr Isabel Fischer, Associate Professor of Information Systems Management at Warwick Business School, who worked for over 20 years in leadership positions in payment technologies, gave a guest talk to more than 60 female undergraduate students from different disciplines and year groups. Isabel talked about the ‘3 Ts and 4 Cs’ that defined her career while working part-time to spend more time with her children.

The 3 T’s and 4 C’s

Isabel’s 3 Ts stand for: trust, time, think, and the 4 Cs for communication, confidence, curiosity, and community engagement.

Isabel explained that when working part-time while at the same time still wanting to pursue her career, having a network of colleagues and other professionals whom she could trust was very important: “Especially when working part-time, having others watch out for you when you are not there is really helpful. Building a network of colleagues and fellow professionals whom you can trust (and who trust you) starts already at university by networking with fellow students and it then continues throughout your career.” Isabel advised students to consider getting involved with charities and community engagement programmes as these offer students the opportunity build networks while at the same time contributing towards social and environmental sustainability. In the US, service learning, the combination of civic engagement, practical experience and academic studies is a well-established concept, and most companies also offer community engagement programmes, so students might have the opportunity to pursue their engagement there.

Continuing the theme of the 3Ts and the 4Cs, Isabel spoke about the need for a purposeful allocation of time especially when working part-time: “You will need to decide on the time spent dedicated to your career versus family, friends and non-work interests. Will you stick to the reduced time you have committed to work or will you try to stay on top of things by reading in between other commitments your emails and answer what seems to be urgent queries?

Even more importantly, there is a need for conscious prioritising of thinking-time rather than just being ‘super busy’ trying to get work done. Being actively and openly curious about new approaches, for example about using new technologies for digital transformation, and then taking time to think about how to confidently communicate findings, is very important. When working part-time, the lack of focusing on thinking about communicating insightful strategic decisions, frequently gets exacerbated because there might be a feeling of wanting to be even more effective in a shorter timeframe. It is important to be always mindful that confident communication is as important as the actual competence of doing your job well.”

Isabel concluded by acknowledging the idiosyncrasy of careers, recommending to students to leverage their strengths and to work with the University of Warwick’s Careers staff on their strengths’ profiles.

Further details of Warwick’s female personal and professional development ‘Sprint’ programme are available here


[1] Office for National Statistics (2020)

[2] https://thepeoplespension.co.uk/info/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2019/05/Gender-pension-gap-report-2019.pdf

[3] Wagner, B. (2015) The complex causes of the gender pay gap. Montana Business Quarterly, 53(3), 16-18

[4] https://thepeoplespension.co.uk/info/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2019/05/Gender-pension-gap-report-2019.pdf

[5] Office for National Statistics (2020)

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