Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers
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Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers

Edited by Ans De Vos and Beatrice I.J.M. van der Heijden

What is a sustainable career and how can individuals and organizations develop pathways that lead to them? With current levels of global unemployment and the need for life-long learning and employability enhancement these questions assume a pressing significance. With twenty-eight chapters from leading scholars, the Handbook of Research on Sustainable Careers makes an important contribution to our understanding of sustainable careers and lays the foundation for the direction of future research.
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Chapter 9: Promoting new norms and true flexibility: sustainability in combining career and care

Claartje J. Vinkenburg, Marloes L. Van Engen and Pascale Peters


This chapter starts from a conceptual integrative framework on sustainability in combining career and care. To facilitate long-term solutions without career penalties to all who are faced with the challenge of combining career and care under pressing demographic changes and blurring boundaries between work and family, we argue that it is of vital importance to expose, challenge and change underlying normative and gendered beliefs about ideal workers and ideal parents or care providers. Such beliefs pertain not only to gender roles, but also to the notions of permanent accessibility and visibility. We discuss the interplay between normative beliefs, behaviour or ‘choice’, and career outcomes of managing the work–family interface through the societal, organizational and individual layers of our integrative framework. We focus on a critical case study of part-time and flexible working in the Netherlands, which shows that gender specialized arrangements are less sustainable than true flexibility and customization. Promoting sustainability and true flexibility in combining career and care means bending normative beliefs, which can be done by talking differently and openly negotiating norms, by showcasing trailblazers, and by promoting customization and unconventional choices without career penalties.

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