One of the great paradoxes of inequality in organizations is that even when organizations introduce new programs designed to help employees in traditionally disadvantaged groups succeed, employees who use these programs often suffer negative career consequences. This study helps to fill a significant gap in the literature by investigating how local employer practices can enable employees to successfully use the programs designed to benefit them. Using a research approach that controls for regulatory environment and program design, we analyze unique longitudinal personnel data from a large law firm to demonstrate that assignment to powerful supervisors upon organization entry improves career outcomes for individuals who later use a reduced-hours program. Additionally, we find that initial assignment to powerful supervisors is more important to positive career outcomes-that is, employee retention and performance-based pay-than are factors such as supervisor assignment at the time of program use. Initial assignment affects career outcomes for later program users through the mechanism of improved access to reputation-building work opportunities. These findings have implications for research on work-family programs and other employee-rights programs and for the role of social capital in careers.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sociology and Political Science