MSNBC: Women Re-entering Work Force Face Peril

"[O]pting out can come back to haunt some women."

And haunt it does in this piece designed to scare the bejeebers out of women who are considering leaving the workforce in order to stay at home with their children. MSNBC contributor Eve Tahmincioglu warns us that women who leave lucrative careers in order to change diapers and arrange playdates may receive a nasty surprise if and when they need to go back to work.

She includes anecdotes from women whose circumstances demanded that they go back to work, but were unable to simply pick up from where they left off, taking jobs they had to in order to make ends meet.

For professional backup, Tahmincioglu turns to Leslie Bennetts, author of the recent tome "The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?"

Women are often blindsided when they’re confronted with the realities of the workplace after opting out, says Leslie Bennetts, author of "The Feminine Mistake: Are We Giving Up Too Much?" Women re-entering the workplace encounter a host of obstacles, including everything from ageism to a “very strong negative bias” against former stay-at-home moms by both male and female managers, she says.

Women need to understand what they may face if they choose to give up their careers, especially those women who do little to keep their skills up to date or educate themselves during the years off, she adds.

What's missing from this, and many other articles regarding women who face similar situations is that it's not necessarily sexism that prevents women from stepping back into their old work roles, but a reality that can affect men and women. Bennetts is correct when she says women who don't keep their skills and education up-to-date face a more difficult time when they decide to go back to work. The same is true for men, but that gets little media attention.

An example of this is an IT professional I know who back in 2002 took a severance package when his company was bought out. Instead of pounding the pavement right away, as he was tired of the corporate rat race, he decided to take a gamble and invest his money and work for himself as a day trader. He gave it a lot of effort, and it worked for several years...but after some unfortunate setbacks, he knew he would have to go back to work. Unfortunately for him, being out of the competitive IT loop for several years made him nearly unmarketable. Unable to step back into the same kind of high-level, lucrative position he occupied before his stock market days (due partly to many IT jobs being outsourced overseas), he is now employed as a contractor doing the same kind of basic IT work that he did when he first started out in the field 15 years ago -- making considerably less as well.

Does this sound sexist to you? Of course not. He made a choice to leave the corporate world, and paid a heavy price when things didn't work out the way he expected. Where's the media outrage when he was unable to simply go right back to where he was before striking out on his own? Being in his mid-40s, is ageism at work here? Are managers looking down on him for daring to dream of making a living outside of the corporate beltway?

The point is, both men and women can face the obstacles Tahmincioglu lists in her article for MSNBC. Unfortunately, our media favors the plight of women over the plight of men.