A few years back, I worked on a project for a large, local corporation on why women “off ramp” from their careers – leave a promising job despite the fact that they’ve educated themselves and fought their way up the ladder. In this particular workforce, we found two reasons:
- They were leaving to care for young children – these women tended to be in their early 30’s and most intended to re-enter the workforce
- They were leaving because they were deeply dissatisfied with their careers – these women tended to be 40 or older and many left for self-employment or consulting work
It was a little frightening to see myself in the profiles we developed for that project. I left for both reasons. I had my children late in life, and I hit both of these crossroads simultaneously. I had progressed in my job about as far as I could go, and the other jobs that were available to me were just more of the same. And I had no time to care for my kids, put a decent meal on the table.
I wanted to start a new phase of my career, not exit. I threw myself into my work seeking a different kind of success.
I loved consulting, for a while. But I was surprised to find myself, ten years later, again deeply dissatisfied – this time with the isolation of my work, my home office, the time I spent with my now teenaged kids who didn’t really need me for more than transportation and basic supervision.
It was time to make a change again. So I did.
The good news is that much has changed in the ten years I was on my own. I found a job easily, despite the horror stories you hear about how hard it is to find a job when you are a) not early in your career; b) have been self-employed; c) need a little flexibility to manage family. Granted, it’s contract work – but I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to pick up where I left off and contribute in a positive way.
But my mind keeps going back to those young women we talked to and their stories. How hard it was to get anyone to take them seriously when they were ready to go back to work. How they were offered less money than they were making before kids because they had “taken a break”. How they endured comments like “We aren’t sure you’ll be able to multi-task.” Really? Who multi-tasks better than a stay-at-home mom?
See, the thing is, I didn’t think I was taking an “off ramp”. I thought I was just taking the alternate route. And I’m guessing many of them thought so too.
This post is part of the SITS Girls Stop the Summer Slump writing challenge.