The first few years that follow college are quite important for most people.
This is the time that we build the foundation for (what we hope) are lasting careers in our chosen industry and/or functional area. And this applies equally to men and women.
But for women though, just as the investments they make during these years begin to pay off in terms of major promotions, growth and power, they are also in the 28+ age group where they also want to start families.
Owing to any number of societal, familial and “support structure” reasons, for many women this is typically followed by either a full or partial withdrawal on their part from work.
Some time back, a rather provocatively (realistically?) headlined article in The Atlantic, written by Anne-Marie Slaughter, a woman with an enviable career, argued that women “can’t have it all”:
In short, the minute I found myself in a job that is typical for the vast majority of working women (and men), working long hours on someone else’s schedule, I could no longer be both the parent and the professional I wanted to be—at least not with a child experiencing a rocky adolescence. I realized what should have perhaps been obvious: having it all, at least for me, depended almost entirely on what type of job I had. The flip side is the harder truth: having it all was not possible in many types of jobs, including high government office—at least not for very long.
The ensuing furor is yet to die down – more so because it came from someone that seemed to prove that you could have it all.
This came to mind today after reading an article in the WSJ (paywall) that talks about how some companies such as McKinsey are trying to make it easier for those that take a break from the career track to focus on the “mommy track” to get back on the career track.
Though its not a company-wide initiative (yet) and appears to be a limited-scope program, from McKinsey’s perspective, having invested time in carefully vetting and selecting said moms and subsequently benefiting from their skill and expertise, they would obviously be loathe to “lose” them. I am sure other professional firms, to varying degrees, would agree with that.
And from the moms’ perspective (sidebar: what about stay-at-home “by choice” dads whose numbers have been increasing, at least in the West?) as long as they are not burning out on both ends, many would love the opportunity to be re-united with their careers (I think).
Many large companies of course have been thinking in similar terms for the last decade or two. And that’s why they run full-time on-site day care for employees’ kids – both as a means to enable parents of young children to be close their offspring during business hours and to prevent employees from either quitting or looking elsewhere.
Lastly, here’s a radical (?) thought, applicable perhaps to firms in the legal, financial or consulting industries…
Based on the “value” added by someone that will make Partner or is already a Partner, perhaps the firm should pay for a full-time at-home Nanny as an additional inducement to make life easier and retain (or regain) the employee’s expertise and talent?