Work Life Balance

Some Mothers Still Want A Dynamic Career After Having Kids, You Don’t Say?

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Workplaces that are making schedules more flexible to accommodate working moms and other employees are seeing boosts in productivity. It turns out that when women aren’t stressing about the reliability of the sitter, if their children have eaten, and who will pick them up from school, they are actually pretty competent and efficient employees. This is nothing short of a revelation to The Washington Post that ran this story documenting how women give up contracts in exchange for work that they enjoy and control of their hours.

Many women who have successful careers prior to being a mother find themselves being relegated to the corners of the office once giving  birth — meaning that they do less interesting work and for less money. Because the press is always surprised to learn that mothers have interests often other than simply mothering, WaPo had this startling epiphany:

…many mothers are willing to give up income if that means taking control of their schedules, and, perhaps most important, doing meaningful, challenging work in their chosen professions rather than what they see as the less interesting work of the often-stigmatized “mommy track.”

The piece goes on to document just how many women have chosen to abandon their careers after having children. The numbers are startling. A survey of Harvard graduates revealed that 15 years after graduating, 30% of mothers with MBAs had quit. One quarter of lawyers had also hung up their power suits as well as women who had pursued master’s of arts degrees. Fifteen percent of mommies with PhDs had also decided to stop working. Conversely, less than six percent of mothers holding medical degrees have given up on their practice — a career in which women have more access to part-time work and more flexible hours.

Jane Leber Herr, an economist at the University of Chicago, makes an excellent observation:

“You would think that, given the rise in education of women, their experience, their presence in high-investment, high-income, high-value fields, the proportion of those who leave the labor force would have gone down,” said Herr, who noted that women now make up the majority in many colleges and professional programs. “What’s shocking is that it hasn’t.”

For those women who still desire a career after adding “mom” to their resume, the choice is clear once you start receiving less dynamic assignments after kids. After all, if you’re not feeling valued in the workplace, doing mundane tasks, and you can afford to quit working, why not choose to prioritize your family?

The disparity in numbers between working lawyers, a profession in which time sensitive assignments are openly given to employees without families, and female doctors who can negotiate their schedules speaks to the myth that most women just give up professional interest after having babies. The fact that working mothers are just as productive when given a policy that better reflects the needs of their families proves that many workplaces are running an outdated system.