Another problem is a strong negative bias against women who have taken time out of the labor force. Whatever the reality, many employers simply assume that these women have let their skills and contacts become out of date. Their experiences as stay-at-home moms are generally regarded as irrelevant to the demands of the fast-changing work world. Nor is it only men who judge them so harshly; some female employers are even tougher on women who are trying to go back to work.
We all know it’s not easy being a working mom. All too often, mothers who work outside the home feel conflicted and apologetic about their choice, even when it’s dictated by financial necessity. All too rarely do they receive the kind of validation and support they deserve. Between the stress, the guilt and the sheer physical demands of juggling family and job, most of us have days when we wonder why our lives have to be so complicated.
Well, it’s time to take heart! As The Feminine Mistake makes clear, working mothers are, in most cases, doing the best possible thing for their children by contributing to the family income and maintaining their own financial viability. This series will highlight some of the surprising research I uncovered when writing the book.
Read the first part of the series, about studies that show working women are happier and healthier.
REASON NUMBER THREE: The Myths About Opting Back In
When women quit their jobs to become stay-at-home mothers, the vast majority say they'll return to the labor force after their children are older. The "opt-out revolution" has been extensively covered by the media, which generally present a rosy view of stay-at-home motherhood while overlooking the difficulties of opting back in. As a result, women typically assume they can resume work when they're ready.
For most of them, however, opting back in proves much harder than they ever anticipated -- and the outcome is far less successful than women have been led to expect.
Ageism is one hurdle. Labor experts admit that many employers regard women in their late 40s as over the hill -- a prejudice that men may not encounter until their late 50s or even early 60s.
The so-called "mommy factor" is another barrier. Research has demonstrated an overt and quantifiable bias against mothers in the labor force; employers have a far more negative attitude toward mothers than they do toward childless women. If two women with identical experience and credentials interview for the same jobs, the woman who has no children will receive more offers, and higher rates of pay, than the mother will.