I am principally concerned and fascinated by this topic of what happens to well-educated, professional women when they choose to have children. Many in my peer group “opted-out” in the early 2000s because raising children and working 50+hour weeks with travel while married to partners with similar career demands seemed incompatible with family life. When I was expecting my 1st child, in my 7-month, I was laid off due to the relocation of corporate headquarters. While interviewing with a Fortune 20 company in my 8th month, I was asked by my male interviewer, not only “how much weight have you gained?” but also “what does your husband do for a living, does he travel and do you plan on having a live-in nanny?” At this point, I shelved my Duke MBA and my consulting/business strategy background to focus on my family.
After 10 years at home, I am ready to jump back in–at least to something that is a good use of my skills and helps me to feel that I’m fulfilling my life’s purpose. I recognize that if I’m lucky, there’s another 20-25 years ahead.
Figuring out how to plug back in is a real challenge, and one that I see many in my peer group facing. It’s hard not to guffaw at well-meaning suggestions to try out dog-walking or re-enter as a marketing associate for $38-$40K (in San Francisco). And then many of us question whether the corporate world can offer the flexibility we need while we are simultaneously managing the “family business.” For me and for many women, testing entrepreneurial skills seems like the best option.
This problem will not get solved overnight, but there is a critical need for middle agents such as The Second Shift, The Apres Group and Talent Reconnect to match re-entrants with employers who recognize the value of this talent pool and want to demonstrate their commitment to women. There is also a critical role for women’s co-working spaces as a launching pad for entrepreneurs and and those in transition. I joined the Hivery in Mill Valley, and the experience has been invaluable–it’s a community of outstretched hands that has helped me to navigate this next chapter.
Finally, I think MBA programs need to demonstrate the lifelong return-on-investment to their women graduates and should play a larger role in supporting womens’ careers throughout the various life stages. The 2010 Chicago MBA-study citing that 10 years out, women earn 57% of their male counterparts is deeply concerning. Specifically, MBA programs can connect employers and graduates to these talent aggregators, they can also connect women locally, regardless of MBA program, and they can enable an online community to support entrepreneurship as well as focusing around industry and functional roles. Collaboration across MBA-programs is key and a worthwhile investment in women.
Founder, Heard It From A Friend
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