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Working Mothers: There are many choices for women and men who work and have families

Last weekend an article I wrote was published in my local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee. The article was titled “Viewpoints: Diversity is imperative to keep California businesses competitive” and was about the power of diversity in organizations.  In the article I cite a recent study from UC Davis about the number of female executives in the top 400 companies in California.   The study found that “more than one-third, 141 (35.3 percent) of the 400 largest public companies in California have no women among their directors and highest-paid executives.”  I blogged about this study a few weeks ago so I will not re-visit the same topic.  What I found interesting was a comment that a reader posted in response to this article on the Bee’s website.  The comment included the following:

“Women have the opportunity to reach the top. They need to forgo child bearing so as to not miss work. The higher up in an organization you go the less your private life matters. It’s 75% company, 25% you. If you can’t deal with it, then do a 50-50 and raise a family and complain about missed promotions.
Life is unfair, and until men start having babies, women are stuck with the chore. And this “chore” requires them to be gone from the power circle. By the time a women reenters upper management in her 50′s she may be too far behind.”

I’m really not sure where to start with this…hmmm…are we dealing with a time warp?  The comment suggests that there is only one way for women with children which is to be absent from the workforce after they have kids then not return until they are 50.  The reality is that the typical maternity leave lasts from  6 weeks to 6 months.  Many times in my career I’ve heard that women do not advance because they are the ones who have the babies.  My perspective is this that having children and a career is very doable.  Of my 29 year career in the high tech industry, I had two babies.  Each time I went out on 5 months maternity leave.  So, of the 29 years which is 348 months, I was off work 10 months due to pregnancy.   Neither of these leaves of absence impacted my career.  When my career began to take off to higher levels of management and responsibility, my husband decided to leave his career and become more of the parent at home.  He switched to a new career that had more flexibility and part time type work so that he could be the one to keep the kids schedules and house in order.  It worked as a great partnership for us.

There are a myriad of choices to be made that can work for women in the workforce and for men as well.  By automatically dismissing women who chose to have families as viable contributors to the organization, you lose the value of bringing diverse talent and perspectives to the business challenges.

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