Women still taking "off-ramps," despite recession
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
severity, the recession hasn't had a huge dampening effect on the number of high-achieving
women choosing to voluntarily leave their jobs for an extended period of time,
according to a study published in the June 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review. Those
who do leave, however, are out of work longer.
Comparing 2004 survey results to those from a similar
poll last fall, Sylvia Ann Hewlett, Laura Sherbin and Diana Foster of the Center
for Work-Life Policy found the number of "off-rampers" dropped six points
to 31 percent. However, women who did off-ramp were staying out of work longer,
by about half a year.
With the unemployment
rate doubling over the past five years, working women may be more reluctant to
leave their jobs, and those without jobs are finding it difficult to return to
work, the trio noted. Indeed, one-fifth of the women trying to on-ramp reported
having a hard time on-ramping because of the economy.
The dip in women in
the number of women who are off-ramping may reflect, in part, their inability
to afford taking time off. Hewlett, Sherbin and Foster found a 28-percent
increase in professional women with nonworking husbands in the five years
between the two studies. The trio said this was not likely an indication of changing
social attitudes about breadwinners. Instead, they noted, the U.S. Bureau of
Labor Statistics reported nonworking people are unable to find jobs, with the average
number of weeks unemployed jumping from 19 in 2004 to 27 last year. The number
of people unemployed for more than 27 weeks grew from 1.7 million to 5.4
million, while the number who’ve stopped looking for jobs surpassed 1 million
for the first time in a decade.
Even so, they noted,
a six-point drop in off-rampers is relatively small given the economic crisis
and the growing number of households with nonworking men. A nonlinear career path
is not a luxury for boom times, they suggested, but one way many women choose
to structure their careers regardless of the economy.