Finding The 'On-Ramp'

Women have long been stepping off
the corporate grid to pursue other endeavors
both personal and professional, but how
successful are they at returning to the corporate

There are exceptions, including top communications-
level hires at MTV Networks and other
programmers in the past year. But anecdotal
data, headhunters and industry experts indicate
that most women who have stepped out of corporate
roles and then re-entered the rat race are
finding it hard to land on the same professional

For context, a study by the Task Force
for Talent Innovation (formerly the Hidden
Brain Drain Task Force), a division of the
Center for Talent Innovation (formerly the
Center for Work-Life Policy), found that in
2009, 31% of women voluntarily left their jobs
for one reason or another.

About three-quarters of the highly qualified
women who left the corporate grid at some point
but later found they wanted to get back into the
game were successful in finding a job that year,
the study found. But only 40% of those returnees
to the workforce were able to find full-time,
mainstream jobs. A significant number of women
came back to a lesser position at a lower pay
scale than when they walked away.


Things might be starting to change, though, as
employers have begun to create “formal offand
on-ramp policies” for the purpose of hanging
onto key employees, Maria Brennan, CEO of
Women in Cable & Telecommunications, said.

“Many of those policies have shelf lives,” or
limits on the amount of time a worker can take
away from the job, Brennan said. “But companies
absolutely recognize that they need to be
able to keep their talent in the fold.”

Since 2005, more than 50 corporations and
organizations around the world have initiated
such programs to help women re-launch
into the workplace, according to the task force’s

Recent data suggests
that women who
return to the work
force are often offered
lower positions for less
pay and with fewer responsibilities.
that’s despite the reality
that a significant
number of women will
opt to take an off-ramp
from their careers over

Taking care of kids
— and, increasingly,
parents, in what’s being
termed as “sandwich
caregiv ing”
— remains the biggest
reason why women
step back from their
careers. The number
of women who left
their jobs to take care
of their kids rose to
74% in 2009 from 45%
in 2004, according to
the task force study.

Other reasons include
jobs, changes in focus,
and lack of advancement
and/or compensation.

About 10% of the
women who left their
corporate jobs in 2009
took flight to start their
own businesses, according
to the study.

Most women take
a little less than three
years off when they leave their jobs, the study

In the last couple of years, the economy has made it harder to return a to
careers than when the Hidden
Brain Drain Task Force
study was first conducted in
2004. An estimated 20% of
women currently trying to
on-ramp say they are having
difficulty doing so because of
the poor economy.

Although specific statistics
haven’t been calculated,
the Hidden Brain Drain
study concluded that a substantial
number of women
might not have left their employers
at all had the firms offered
more options for flexible

More than half the women
who left their jobs in 2009
didn’t even discuss flex options
with their supervisors,
the study found.

“This is a unique time for
many women,” as Julie Cookson,
senior vice president of
human resources for Scripps
Networks, told Multichannel
in an interview
four years ago. “It’s a balancing
act for many women.
Many are taking care of
children and ailing parents
at the same time. They are
balancing different things,
and they can’t be all things
to all people all the time.”

Only 9% of highly qualified
women in the 2009
study ever attempted to return
to their old employer
after jumping off the grid.


Instead, they switched
their focus to feeling good
about their job (whatever
it is), themselves and what
they do every day, the study

That’s where companies’
work/life policies come into
play, Brennan said. Firms
must be nimble when it
comes to satisfying their employees’ needs.

Every year, the WICT PAR Initiative — PAR
stands for Pay Equity, Advancement Opportunities
and Resources For Work/Life Support
— finds more companies putting
emphasis on this aspect of their human resources
priorities while balancing the overall
needs of the company.

It can be a tricky tightrope.

“Finding qualified people, especially
women, is always difficult,” Brennan said.
“It makes sense to keep people in the fold
as much as possible while satisfying their
needs as well. We are seeing more examples
of women who have left the industry coming
back. Many times it has to do with the familiarity
of a former employer and clearly, it’s a
competitive advantage to have off- and onramp
policies in place.”

‘Wonder Women’ EVENT On MARCH 13

New York —
A dozen dynamic female executives in cable and programming
will share their success stories at the 14th annual Multichannel
“Wonder Women” luncheon on Tuesday, March 13,
at the Hilton New York, in partnership with the New York chapter of
Women in Cable Teleommunications. For more information, contact
Sandy Friedman at (917) 281-4718 or