Front-page stories in the media trumpet the notion that women are "opting-out" of high-level careers. Prestigious publications ask, "Why are there no women in power?" only to answer, "Because women don't want top jobs."
Catalyst research shows that 57% of women in senior corporate posts do aspire to be CEOs. While one-third of women leave the workforce for a period of time, two-thirds continue to pursue full-time careers, leaving millions in the talent pool.
In the Jewish community, there is also the widespread belief that women don't want CEO positions. However, when AWP launched a recruitment effort for the UJC Mandel Executive Development Program, we identified 50% women candidates, and ultimately half the participants selected for the program were women.
While many women have the ambition and capacity to compete for top jobs, some do choose to "opt-out." In large measure, they say it is because their institutions need to change in fundamental ways, but show little appetite for the challenge. That may be one reason that women are launching their own companies in record numbers. (In the period between 1997 and 2002, the number of businesses owned by women grew 20 percent, to 6.5 million, twice as fast as all U.S. businesses.)
Supporting careers over the long term makes good sense, especially since people are living longer and working, well into their seventies. Here are some strategies
Offer flexible work hours. Offer part-time employment, telecommuting, and job-sharing.
Provide off-ramps and on-ramps. Consider flexibility over the longer arc of a career. Find ways to help women "ramp up" and "ramp down." For women on the "off ramp," provide networking opportunities and programs to keep contacts current and skill sharp.
Keep former employees connected. Put them on the mailing list, provide website access, extend invitations to events, and alert them to job openings. Local communal organizations can join together to reach out to former professionals - especially through appropriate JCC and Federation programs.
Publicize Networking Parents. Ongoing teleconferences sponsored by the Jewish Communal Service Association for parents taking a professional hiatus.