Friday, February 12, 2010

Recession Moms

Today's Washington Post article by Donna St. George, "Recession Has More Moms Entering Workforce," reflects what we've seen over the last 18 months. Industries dominated by men- finance, construction, automotive- are being hit much harder than more recession-proof, female-dominated industries like education and health care. As husbands lose jobs and take pay cuts, women are returning to the workforce in droves, often for the first time in more than ten years. It's a tough transition on everyone in the family: mom misses her family time, Dad has to take over more of the family responsibilities and kids need to be more independent.

But here's the thing, there's always a strong demand for more flexible jobs for working parents. Working parents didn't suddenly decide they wanted to spend more time with their families. In fact, given the financial and emotional stress of the longest recession in a generation, there's a strong argument for more flexibility in professional roles.

And the strange thing with this recession? Working parents are, in many cases, the winners here.

Businesses are hiring, but in niche areas and for employees with high-demand expertise. If you have that expertise, say in Federal contracts management or fundraising using social media, you can in many cases command the schedule and flexibility, if not the compensation, you want.

And when businesses are hiring, they often don't have the funding and demand for a full-time role. What they do have is the need for a part-time professional, and we're seeing this in law firms, investment management boutiques, management consulting firms and non-profit organizations. For many women, this is the dream job and work-life balance they never thought they'd achieve during the Economic Boom.

And sometimes these business have the full-time need now, but can't commit to a longer term employee. They just aren't confident about their pipeline and future revenues, and want to hire contract workers. No, these contract jobs don't come with job security or benefits, but they do allow working parents the chance to work now and end the contract, say around the end of June, when, if it ever stops snowing, the kids will be out of school. Working parents the world over know the challenge of working while younger school-aged children are home in the summer. Camps (often costing more than earnings) and the logistics of swim team and pick-ups by 4pm often make that impossible. Take the shorter-term contract and spend the summer with your kids at the pool. At least that's what I'm day-dreaming about as I see 3 1/2 feet of snow outside my window.

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