For Shelley Murray, an athletic mom from Woburn, MA, the tug-of-war between her high-level banking job and her family's needs transformed mundane tasks into Faustian dilemmas. One day, when she was running late to pick up her son at preschool, she realized that she also needed a gallon of milk. Should she pull over and be late (again), or should she pick Adam up on time and drag him into the grocery store? "I am sitting in traffic, debating, and it just hit me," says Murray. "I went, 'You are trying to budget time to buy milk. This is insane!'"
The very next day, Murray called Cindy Cunningham, a colleague who had proposed a job share. "I did have some success with a four-day week for a while," recalls Cunningham. "But I always felt I was doing five days of work in four days—and getting paid for four." After reading a chapter on job sharing in Charlene Canane's definitive book, Part Time Solution, Cunningham decided to give it a try. "I didn't know Shelley would be the perfect jobsharing partner, but I did know we had a similar work ethic," she says.
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Despite decades of family-friendly rhetoric, only 19 percent of companies surveyed in 2005 by the Society for Human Resource Management allow job sharing—even though it's proven to help to retain valuable employees and prevent burnout. Job sharing is sometimes seen in lower-level positions, but is rare among executives. Nevertheless, Murray and Cunningham challenged their employer, FleetBoston, to support a shared executive position
The two women created a combined resume, networked aggressively, and launched an internal search for a shared position. They told prospective employers that they were committed to climbing the corporate ladder, and maintaining institutional clout; that they sought balance, but not at the cost of their careers. It took them at least 15 interviews, but they finally landed a joint vice presidency—a prestigious title and a salary double their individual paychecks.