STAY IN THE GAME (IF YOU CAN)
When we asked what piece of advice they would give a woman who was contemplating pausing her career, the vast majority of Women on the Rise respondents recommended she “stay in the game.” Work part-time, consult, do something that keeps your professional life alive and well.
Remember those “Cruisers” who had pulled back by working part-time but did not completely leave their careers? They reported the highest levels of overall satisfaction in the Women on the Rise survey. Over 90 percent felt they were a good role model for their children, 83 percent had no regrets at all about their decision to work part-time, 85 percent said doing so enabled them to have better
work-life balance, and, interestingly, 60 percent reported that pulling back allowed them to gain important skills and experiences that helped them be better employees when they recommitted to their careers full-time. Finally, the vast majority maintained a reduced schedule for only a few short years. Nearly 80 percent had returned to full-time work by the time their children were in elementary school.
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Lisa Johnson’s career path is perfect example of how one can “stay in the game” by being a Cruiser. Today, she is an executive vice president and division manager at Wells Fargo in Chicago, a mother of three (including a set of twins), and a proud board member of the United Way. But, like many of the women I interviewed, her career path hasn’t been a direct shot to the top. She worked part-time when her children were young and then recommitted to full-time work when she was ready and able.
Lisa graduated from Baylor University in 1983 with a degree in finance and took a job in commercial banking with a company out of Denver that was later acquired by Norwest. She became a commercial lending officer for Wells Fargo and was a top sales person in the company. In 1994, when she became pregnant with her first child, she approached her manager and asked for a part-time schedule. The company had no part-time offerings, but her boss agreed to let her work three days a week as a trial. If it didn’t work, they agreed they would renegotiate after a year.
“I was determined to prove it could be done,” Lisa said during our interview. “I became highly efficient on those three days and managed to generate more sales that year than I had ever in my career. The next year, I did even better. It was a win for everyone.” Lisa was recruited by a boutique investment banking firm and agreed to take the job if, and only if, she could continue on her reduced workweek schedule. They agreed and so she left Wells Fargo to try her hand in a new type of finance. But two years later, Lisa’s husband was offered a plum job in Chicago, so she went back to work, still part-time, for Wells Fargo working out of their Chicago office. When Lisa became pregnant with her twins, she told her new manager she was going to quit working and focus on her family. He begged Lisa to stay.
“My boss was an incredible mentor. He said, ‘Tell me what you want’ and I told him I wanted to work from home while the kids were young. So we created a staff role that focused on training and recruiting,” she said.