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Social sustainability, flexible work arrangements, and diverse women

Stacy Blake‐Beard (School of Management, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Regina O'Neill (Sawyer Business School, Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Cynthia Ingols (School of Management, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)
Mary Shapiro (School of Management, Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts, USA)

Gender in Management

ISSN: 1754-2413

Article publication date: 20 July 2010




A key challenge facing organizations today is sustainability in economic, environmental, and social arenas. The purpose of this paper is to examine flexible work arrangements (FWAs) a source of social sustainability.


Drawing from theoretical explanations of social sustainability, the authors explored opportunities and challenges of FWAs as social sustainability in the American workforce.


While FWAs allow organizations to “sustain” their workforce, diverse employees face challenges in accessing them, particularly across dimensions of gender, race, and class. The paper offers guiding principles for organizational leaders, including making flexibility an organizational norm, better understanding employees' lives outside of work, and creating metrics of social sustainability.

Research limitations/implications

To extend knowledge on FWAs as a source of social sustainability, researchers should focus beyond managerial, professional, and mostly White women in America. What can be learned about employees of color, of lower socioeconomic levels, and those in location‐dependent jobs? What can be learned from companies and countries, who are leaders in providing flexible options?

Practical implications

Given the potential for FWAs to minimize tensions from conflicting demands of work and life, efforts to employ FWAs should be directed at the entire organization. This paper discusses the differential impact of FWAs across different groups of women and questions current organizational responses.


The paper expands the understanding of social sustainability to include an organization's human resources by examining the use of FWAs for diverse women, and by offering suggestions for practitioners and researchers interested in social sustainability.



Blake‐Beard, S., O'Neill, R., Ingols, C. and Shapiro, M. (2010), "Social sustainability, flexible work arrangements, and diverse women", Gender in Management, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 408-425.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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