NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


August 25, 2005

Women stepping out of the workforce to raise a family should already be planning their comeback, according to a recent study conducted under advisement from the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change.

The researchers found that many women who left the workforce changed employers or careers when they returned:

  • Some 61 percent changed industries, while 54 percent changed functional roles.
  • Some 83 percent accepted a position at a comparable or lower level to where they left, while 45 percent are self-employed.
  • When obstacles and surprises arise during the reentry process, 59 percent of step-outs decide to turn to smaller companies for the next phase of their careers.

The lack of ongoing education and career counseling for women managers and MBA alumnae makes it virtually impossible for women reentering a fast-paced business environment to present themselves as having updated skills, say observers. Women can help themselves by taking specific steps before they decide to step out, during their hiatus and after the job search begins. For example, they can:

  • Create a reentry plan similar to their ongoing leadership development plan.
  • Volunteer while they are away.
  • Stay connected to colleagues despite the difficulty in scheduling and interests.
  • Maintain professional licenses and memberships and attend continuing educational experiences.

Companies need to realize that these women are well-educated. Although they've been out of the workforce for some time, they're also fresh, eager and not burned-out, say researchers.

"Baby boomers are on the brink of retiring in droves and leaving behind the largest labor shortage in history," said Monica McGrath, Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Wharton School of Business, who headed the study. "Now is not the time for corporations to squander billions of dollars in talent and enthusiasm at their fingertips."

Source: Cheryl Hall, "Returning to work after a long break," Dallas Morning News, August 16, 2005; and Monica McGrath, "Back In The Game: Returning to Business after a Hiatus," Wharton Center for Leadership and Change, July 15, 2005.

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