Question of the week #7
I am in the process of gearing up for the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival in January. This year’s theme is “Getting down to Business”. This question is one that will be one of our panels this year, reinventing myself, which could also be reentry into the workplace. With that in mind, here is this week’s question.
You often address the difficulty for women/mothers to on-ramp back into the workforce. What/who do you see as the reason for the difficulty? Is it companies operating under antiquated notions, requiring workers be present in the office and work 8-5? Do they envision the time spent at home as an atrophy of skills?
This is such a layered topic. Many women never want to leave the workplace but find themselves leaving it because the companies that they are working with are not willing to be flexible with their new found family. For those who can not leave and have to just conform to a companies same expectations prior to having a family, their world becomes even more difficult and frustrating. Some companies are willing to let women work a 3-day week paying them a significant amount less even though we all know that they are probably doing the exact same job they did in 5 days. That doesn’t feel good either.
I believe if a woman wants to continue working through those years when the kids are young or even teens, it is imperative that companies figure out how to create environments that work for everyone. Happier women and happier workplaces make for happier families, better economies and a more successful outcome for everyone involved.
I am not so sure that the standard 8-5 workplace is the future of business as we become a more virtual world. That if you are happy and challenged in your job then you will do what needs to be done every day regardless of punching a clock. Then there are jobs where we are building products that are more streamlined as 8-hour workdays and those companies need to figure out how to maintain working mothers in a positive way as they physically need to be there.
Then there is the woman who makes a conscious decision to get off the train for a while and stay home to raise a family. There is a whole different set of issues here. Even getting involved in the school system there is the “working moms” and the “stay-at-home moms” that creates a weird division. It shouldn’t but it does. It is so hard to re-enter the workplace in the same spot where you opted out. Many of the women who decided to stay home are used to a different kind of job where they have full autonomy using a different set of skill sets managing a household and raising children. Once the kids are in school full time or even some wait until their kids go to college, many women don’t want to go back to the 8 hour grind. They want to do something but they want to maintain the flexibility that they are used to.
It isn’t easy for a woman no matter which road they choose. Each road has compromises both good and bad. I am investor in Catchafire that posts a variety of short-term jobs from non-profit organizations that volunteers can apply for through their database. That is one way to jump into the game slowly. Certainly starting your own company is another. Going to Meet-ups that are geared towards verticals that interest you. You might meet someone who needs your skills. If you have the means, figure out how to invest in companies that could use your knowledge and your cash. Go to conferences to learn of possible ways to re-enter a work force under your own set of rules.
Bottom line, children come at a certain time of a woman’s life and it happens to be in the midst of most peoples career. Some put their careers on hold, others keep moving forward. No matter what road you choose, it is not easy and I am not so sure it ever will be. If companies were more flexible and understanding of families with the desire to retain smart women through those years, then everyone would be a lot better off….and studies have shown that when there is a solid gender balance at every level of management of a company including the top echelons, there is a much higher rate of success.