August 22, 2012
Are we in a 'mom-cession'?
There's been a lot of talk lately about the "motherhood penalty," and I think it's finally becoming tiresome for those of us who have careers, or are trying to, and also happen to be parents.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm glad the research is being done about inequities in the workforce and that the research is being publicized and discussed. I just think that so much scrutiny is placed on working parents (are they employed, why aren't they employed, why they shouldn't be employed, how they take more and demand more from the system than their childless counterparts) that we are overlooking the benefits that workers who are parents bring.
That's why I like a recent study that underscores these benefits, which will seem obvious to any of us who have juggled kids and deadlines. The recent executive survey by Korn/Ferry Institute found that 95 percent of female professionals in executive positions think raising children has provided them with unique skills portable to the workplace.
Motivating and inspiring others, learning agility (applying past experience in new ways) and confidence are just some of those skills.
Great, of course. Who doesn't want someone who excels at motivating others around the office?
The study, though, also reported some not-so-great data working parents will already know or suspect:
• Fifty percent of the female corporate executives polled said their career-growth prospects were stymied "somewhat" by having children. Eight percent reported that motherhood has limited their career progression to a "great extent."
• About three in 10 respondents said they had either postponed having kids (19 percent) or decided not to have them at all (10 percent) because of their careers.
Another study, this one homegrown, made headlines this past week. Brian Serafini, a University of Washington doctoral candidate in sociology, and co-author Michelle Maroto, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Alberta, analyzed job-loss data across different subgroups. They learned that there's another story behind the earlier publicized "he-cession" that appeared to show men faring worse than women in terms of finding employment.
Time Healthland reported the study's findings: "Married women with kids who lost their jobs between 2007 and 2009 had a 31% lower chance of finding a new job than married fathers with kids. But their alter egos -- single women without kids -- were taking less time to find new jobs compared to similar men. In fact, single women who weren't moms had a 29% greater chance than single men without kids of finding a new job."
Here comes the new term: "mom-cession."
These numbers -- paired with what seems like a prevailing belief that employees who are parents are naturally less hard-working (and therefore understandably less appealing) to employers, along with the practice of dismissing alternative work situations as "luxuries" -- are discouraging.
But more than that, all of the buzz and statistics are distracting us from the real issue.
Who cares whether a prospective or current employee has a child, has an aging parent, plays golf or is obsessed with volunteering or reading detective novels while touring arcane libraries of the East Coast?
We all need balance. Discrimination, for any reason, is bad for all of us. Closing the gender gap in the workplace benefits everyone, because it ensures a workforce made up not of those who can work away robot-style with single-minded dedication for 80 hours a week, but of the most creative, talented, passionate, motivated and well-rounded employees available.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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