Beyond struggling to make peace with the slower pace of their careers, another issue Cruisers faced was the challenges of managing the workload. One Women on the Rise respondent wrote, “I worked part-time, but found I was working full-time on a half-time salary.”
Cathy Benko, vice chairman (and previous head of talent) at Deloitte, says she sees this all of the time. “Women negotiate a part-time schedule and then find themselves working full-time. The challenge is we women are pleasers and find it really difficult to say no. But if you are truly committed to your choice to pull back, you need to be clear that you truly do mean it. Otherwise, the work will creep into your time with your family, which defeats the goal in the first place.”
Of course, to take the scenic route of a Cruiser requires the opportunity to do so. The sad truth is negotiating a reduced schedule or securing part-time work can be challenging if you don’t have a boss and/or a company that supports you. I would have relished the chance to work a flexible schedule for a period of time after my daughter was born. Having that opportunity would have kept me in the game and would have meant I wasn’t forced to leave my job at the advertising agency a loss for them and for me.
Becoming a Cruiser can be the right path for women who want flexibility and yet want to “stay in the game” professionally. Doing so takes a supportive boss, clarity of purpose, boundaries about workflow, and the willingness to watch your colleagues pass you by. Importantly, as the stories of Karen Catlin and Debbie Lovich show, it can also put you in the best position to re-ignite your career when you are ready to be fully back in.
Boomerangs: Work, Pause, Repeat
Work From Home Careers 2015 Photo Gallery
While Cruisers never fully leave the workforce, Boomerangs leave the workplace completely and then recommit to their careers by returning to their previous industry, previous company, and even, occasionally, their previous jobs. These women have career paths that often look like they are “opt-out” moms, but like Diane Flynn, their careers don’t end with kids. Rather, they re-ignite their professional lives when the time is right for them and their families. We rarely hear about their second acts, and so this path is not an obvious one for most women. As one Boomerang told me, “The story about our career paths isn’t what makes the headlines, but the truth is, we rock it.”
I had the pleasure of meeting four Boomerangs when I moderated a panel on return-to-work internships at the 2015 iRelaunch conference. The four women each left illustrious careers in the financial services industry, took significant pauses, and then relaunched to great success.
Panelist Raeshma Patel took five years off while her children were young and is now an associate at Goldman Sachs. She shared, “The power of my returnship was that it allowed me to test the waters and see what working full-time again would be like. Now that my children are older, I found I was able to be the fully engaged professional I wanted to be something I didn’t feel I could do when they were younger.”
Panelist Andrea Chermayeff was out of the paid workforce for fifteen years and is now vice president of asset management at JPMorgan Chase & Co. When I asked how her colleagues viewed her extended break, Andrea laughed. “It’s funny. I don’t think most of them even know I was out of the workforce at all, let alone for a decade and a half.”
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