July 2, 2009
Transition time: Financial squeeze at home sends 'economommies' back to work
Special to NWjobs
Two years ago, stay-at-home mom Beth Hodges and her husband were living comfortably in their Brier home while putting their five kids through school on his commercial real estate salary.
Now, as the recession pounds real estate sales, drastically shrinking her husband’s income, Hodges finds herself in a surprising new role: what many call “economommies,” women returning to the workforce to help pay family bills.
Like thousands of women with household incomes squeezed by the economy’s chokehold, Hodges was caught off-guard. Her last salaried job before the recession was more than 20 years ago, when she left full-time teaching to raise her children.
“This sucks,” says Hodges, 51. “It’s not what I expected at this stage of my life. But you can’t just sit around and do nothing.”
In part, that’s because men’s jobs are taking a beating. Statistics show that male-dominated workforce sectors -- including manufacturing and construction -- have been hammered harder than their female counterparts.
Eighty percent of the 5.1 million U.S. jobs lost in the current recession belonged to men, according to Andrew Sum, economics professor and director of the Center for Labor Market Studies at Northeastern University, where he analyzes local and national employment figures.
The number of unemployed Americans has risen by 7 million since the recession began in December 2007, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports. In May, 9.8 percent of adult men were unemployed, compared with 7.5 percent of women.
Job search tools
Here are some local resources for women looking for part-time or full-time work:
Centerpoint Institute for Life and Career Renewal is a Seattle-based center with free Wednesday orientations, plus fee-based workshops.
Life Transitions offers free group-based classes and assistance with focus on separated, divorced or widowed participants, and other qualifying factors. Green River Community College in Auburn offers King County’s only program; YMCA Pathways for Women in Everett has Snohomish County’s only program.
Washington Women’s Employment and Education is a Kent-based agency assisting low-income people to gain “skills, knowledge and courage to be self-supporting.”
This puts a lot more pressure on women. And while many women have experience and just want job leads, others have never worked outside the home and need a lot of job-search help.
Some may start at one of the state’s Life Transitions programs. Formerly called the Displaced Homemaker program, offering free help for separated, widowed or recently divorced women, Life Transitions now provides both genders looking for work and related bill-paying solutions with everything from financial management skills and referrals for legal advice to job-search planning.
Colleen Neubert, director of the King County program, describes calls she gets from women saying, “My spouse lost his job and I’m afraid of losing my home and I don’t know what to do.”
A key part of the Life Transitions program helps clients assess their interests and skills, and “start a job search that helps them put their best foot forward in an interview,” says Neubert.
Some parents may find that foot landing in the schools where they’ve been active volunteers. Teaching jobs are scarce, but Shoreline School District’s substitute coordinator Chris Larson offers encouragement. “I tell some people to consider working in special ed,” she says. “I have seen so many people who discover that they just love it. The important thing to finding work is to follow your gut.”
It worked for Hodges. After subbing as a teacher for six months, she beefed up her resume and recently earned a permanent job in retail clothing sales.
This “take-charge” mentality can be the first step to an emotionally rewarding career that also pays the bills, says Carol Vecchio, executive director of Seattle’s Centerpoint Institute for Life and Career Renewal, a nonprofit organization specializing in life and career changes.
Vecchio says today’s economy “is a wake-up call that nudges us to look at things differently. We see those wake-up calls as good things.”
- career profile (166)
- cool jobs (71)
- education and training (63)
- entry level (70)
- etiquette (107)
- events (71)
- featured (431)
- finding your passion (98)
- health care (76)
- interviewing (90)
- job fairs (61)
- management (94)
- market trends (92)
- networking (278)
- resumes (103)
- salary (85)
- social media (92)
- technology (116)
- unemployment (57)
- work/life balance (92)