How maternity leave can ruin your career

Maybe having a baby won’t ruin your career but taking the time away from your job certainly can. A woman named Louisa Clark who worked in the entertainment industry had a baby and was assured she could take as long a maternity leave as she wanted; her job would still be there. The promise was well-intended but it didn’t turn out that way. 9 months later Clark returned to her job only to find that it had been restructured. Executives had been fired and she was given a job in an area she disliked. She quit her job and took a job working for her friend as an administrative assistant at minimum wage. “I feel like I’m standing with my face pressed against a window, watching the world carry on without me.” That sucks.

Sylvia Ann Hewlett, a campaigner for U.S. maternity leave, conducted research that showed that a woman who took a total of more than two years off lost 18 per cent of her earning power forever. If she took three years off, this figure soared to 38 per cent. …With the decline in earning power, many husbands have a heavy financial burden placed on them after their wives fail to find subsequent work, or work of equal value to their previous jobs. As a result fathers can’t spend much time with their children or wives, putting undue stress on marriages.

Alexa Kerr, a careers focus consultant, stated emphatically that women cannot return to their previous career status after returning from a maternity leave.  I think really pretty much that’s universally understood. Everyone has to accept that things will not be the same.” I disagree that everyone has to accept these conditions. What’s universally understood about mat leave shouldn’t be universally accepted. It happens because corporate America and Canada allow it to happen. In the workplace, women on maternity leave find themselves made redundant before worse-performing male colleagues.

Katie Powell was a corporate executive for more than a decade. At 23, she became the youngest-ever director at Cable & Wireless. “The answer isn’t always to set up your own business either, as that is incredibly demanding and you may have to put in far more hours than as an employee. You can plough everything you have into something but many startups go out of business in the first couple of years.”

Occasionally a woman is fortunate enough to be married to a man who doesn’t mind being a stay-at-home father. If that’s the case and he’s content to be at home raising kids, and they can afford this godsend, then she’s lucky. The reality of having a househusband however can be very different. Penelope Trunk blogged, My husband, in fact, has brought up divorce…I think it is career related since I have a great career and his sort of stalled when he became a stay-at-home dad and it went to hell from there.

There is always the option of working for other people from home. There are many executives who hire virtual personal and executive assistants. They communicate over the phone and on email. The job description is virtually (pun) the same as if you worked in an actual office. The money is the same too. You might also consider a job as a word processor or a transcriptionist from home. You might blog for a magazine. There are a plethora of online jobs. You just need to put in the time to do the research.

These are some sites you can investigate to see if there is anything that meets your needs. Have a look at these:

Upwork
Elance
Indeed
FlexJobs
CareerJet
FindVirtualJobs
Neuvoo
Totaljobs

Here is an article on eHow about finding virtual jobs. Here’s another.

Women who are lucky enough to work for the public sector such as government employees, and in Canada schoolteachers and law enforcers, don’t face that dilemma. They are guaranteed a certain number of months for mat leave (up to a year for Ontario teachers but no pay after several months) and a return to their jobs. There is no guarantee a woman will get her previous job back but she has to be provided with a job of equal value.

For instance a schoolteacher might not be able to return to her former school but have to work at a new school. A police officer may or may not be able to return to the same platoon or bureau but there has to be an opening for her in a similar job at the same salary.

As far as I’m concerned, this is how it should be in the corporate and non-profit sectors.

 

 

 

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