This Week's Herman Trend Alert

Leadership in Normal 2.0

  The Herman Trend Alert

October 19, 2005

The Cost of the Mommy Track

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 one 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 workforce to raise a family initially feel positive about their decisions; however, when they are ready to return, fully 50 % feel discouraged by the reactions they receive from employers.

"On average, according to the survey participants, a woman actually loses 18% of her income on reentry," says Sylvia Ann Hewlett, founding president of the Center for Work-Life Policy. If the woman is out of the workforce for three years or more, the cost can be up to 38%. 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% changed industries, 54% changed functional roles, 83% accepted a position at a comparable or lower level, and 45% are self-employed.

The professional women of the U.S. 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

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