The cost of the ‘Mommy Track’

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Back in March 2000, we issued a Herman Trend Alert: More highly educated women were choosing to stay home and take care of their babies.

From teachers to physicians to lawyers and accountants, this trend was happening throughout the country. About a year and nine months later, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a statement, documenting what we had forecast: For the first time since 1976, more women were choosing to stay home and take care of their children.

A study released this year by the Forte Foundation reports that the trend continues, and although more younger women are choosing to stay home and take care of their babies, that choice costs them dearly.

Seventy percent of the women who choose to leave the work force to raise a family initially feel positive about their decisions; however, when they are ready to return, fully 50 percent feel discouraged by the reactions they receive from employers.

“On average, according to the survey participants, a woman actually loses 18 percent of her income on re-entry,” said Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy.

If the woman is out of the work force for three years or more, the cost can be up to 38 percent.

But women don’t just lose money; they also tend to lose their ambition. Not good for the women, not good for the employers they want to serve.

Moreover, the study of the participants who had re-entered the working world reported that 61 percent changed industries, 54 percent changed functional roles, 83 percent accepted a position at a comparable or lower level, and 45 percent are self-employed.

The professional women of the United States are not the only ones to experience these challenges; recently the National Post of Canada featured an article about women physicians who are prioritizing their lives to spend time with their children by reducing their hours.

Canada’s 3,000-physician shortage is just one example of how this problem is affecting Canada.

The Forte Foundation, a consortium of employers, universities, and non-profits, exists to find solutions to this challenge. Find a list of suggestions for women, employers, and universities at

From “Herman Trend Alert,” by Roger Herman and Joyce Gioia, strategic business futurists, copyright 2005.