Do Your Current Work Conditions Match Your Expectations?

Do Your Current Work Conditions Match Your Expectations by Fabienne Swartz

{3:32 minutes to read} After graduating from college, women approach their emergent careers with vigor and determination—eager to advance, become breadwinners, and pursue their passions. Somewhere along the career trajectory, many women also yearn to start a family.

Career aspirations and the drive to start a family are not mutually exclusive. Yet, corporate America seems to think they are, making it challenging for women to have the best of both worlds.

For many women, working leads to inner satisfaction. Without it, a sense of self is lost, which makes the “mommy track” of the corporate world so devastating for women who want to work—and work hard.

The term “mommy track” has been in use since 1989, with varying degrees of meaning. To some, it is a benevolent thing, allowing women to be both mothers and career-minded individuals. To others, it is an involuntary sidelining of women into work that is less interesting, has fewer responsibilities, and wields less power.

So who is right? Let’s start with the things we know:

  • Some women are more concerned with their career than with starting a family.
  • Many other women want a career and a family.

The women who are primarily concerned about having a career are not immune to being assigned to the mommy track. Some managers view all women of reproductive age as if they are biding their time to have a baby, and as a matter of course, withhold key management positions from them—subtly, and expertly crafted to not run afoul of the law. Add this to the well-documented wage gap, and it’s clear that these women are not coasting through corporate America, as one should expect.

Women who decide to leave the workforce for a number of years to start a family enter those years after having been placed on the mommy track…and are often sorely disappointed to find out they are still on the mommy track when they return to work. In addition to being assigned positions that have little potential for advancement, they are paid less.

Companies who coerce women onto the mommy track are actually doing themselves a disservice. I truly believe that, at the end of the day, companies would benefit from being more flexible and focusing on how well the job is done—rather than valuing employees who clock in at 6:00 am and stay until 8:00 pm. A consensus is emerging that the amount of hours that an employee spends at the office is inversely related to the quality of work produced; the more time you spend at the office, the less efficient you become—because no one can focus for 15 hours in a day. Maybe I am biased, but it sure seems to me that working mothers have an abundance of focus. We get the job done, and we do it in the timeframe allotted. And it’s excellent quality.

I think another part of the problem is that women don’t always recognize the importance of the work they do. We tend to undervalue ourselves and say “I’m not done; I still have a thousand things to do.” Men are very different. Men say, “Look at me! I’ve done something!” In fact, a new study published in The Harvard Business Review sheds light on some of the issues surrounding attitudes and differences like these.

Making decisions about career and family is not easy for anyone. Ideally, we would all have a close confidante who could help reconcile our aspirations with our financial reality—but no one wants to burden their friends with spreadsheets of financial data. If you’re looking for a coach who can address both aspects of your life, contact me

Fabienne Swartz JD (Belgium) CDFATM
Certified Divorce Financial AnalystTM
500 Mamaroneck Av.
Suite 320
Harrison, NY 10528
(914) 798-6940

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