Nuria Chinchilla: The Power to Change Workplaces

By Jeffrey Pfeffer, Megan Anderson
2008 | Case No. OB67 | Length 17 pgs.
In 1993, Nuria Chinchilla had recently completed her doctoral thesis at IESE Business School in Barcelona, on the topic of organizational turnover, with no particular focus on women, flexible work arrangements, or work-family issues. She chose to remain at IESE, where she had worked since the early 1980s as an assistant professor. By 2003, just over a decade later, she had attained the rank of full professor, had founded the International Center of Work and Family at IESE, and was generally acknowledged to be a leader if not the leader in workplace flexibility and work-family issues internationally, attending conferences all over the globe and being extremely visible in the media. Many observers echoed the comments of Gloria Renom, a deputy in the Catalonia parliament: “for a long time, Nuria has been considered the leading authority in the field of work-life balance.” Renom attributed Nuria’s success to a good understanding of the themes involved and intense preparation for the challenges she faced. Indeed, how else to explain Chinchilla’s remarkable ability to influence others and to use a number of levers of power extremely successfully? It was not clear how Chinchilla had accomplished so much in so short a time, and what else she might do to be even more effective in obtaining changes in workplace flexibility in the future. And there was another interesting aspect to her career. Chinchilla seemed to have largely surmounted the trade-offs faced by so many people in positions of power—the apparent need to choose between having influence and being true to one’s values and beliefs, as well as the choice between one’s work and the rest of one’s life. How had she been able to accomplish this?
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