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Originally published August 5, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified August 5, 2007 at 2:04 AM

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Job Market

Job market out of sync with growing desire of women to be employed part-time

In an eye-catching national survey from the Pew Research Center released last month, fully 60 percent of working mothers now say part-time...

The Associated Press

Women's work in the news

Every day, it seems, there's fresh news about the ever-changing place of women in the work world. Here's a sample:

Bringing home the bacon: In 57 percent of married couples, husbands and wives work. Wives' earnings contribute 35 percent of family income in the U.S. In one-third of dual-earning couples, the wife brings home the bigger paycheck.

USINFO, U.S. Department of State; http://usinfo.state.gov

Married moms on the job: The percentage of married mothers, especially those with young children, in the workplace peaked in 1997-98, then declined and has remained relatively stable since 2000.

In 2005, 60 percent of married mothers with preschoolers were employed, as were 53.5 percent of mothers with infants and 75 percent with school-age children.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, February 2007 report; www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/mlrhome.htm

Slackers and overachievers: National networking group Downtown Women's Club found 34 percent of 20- and 30-something female workers resent boomers labeling them "slackers" and nearly 40 percent of boomers would advise younger workers not to follow their path.

In an eye-catching national survey from the Pew Research Center released last month, fully 60 percent of working mothers now say part-time work is their ideal rather than full-time, compared with 48 percent a decade ago.

One problem: Though it might be nice to think women's increased desire for part-time work is fueled by increased flexibility among employers and hence more opportunity, project director Paul Taylor says the survey found otherwise:

The percentage of working mothers who actually work part time has stayed stable since 1997, at 24 percent.

"What you have is an increasing number of women expressing a preference for something that just over a quarter of them do," Taylor said. "There's a feeling that by and large the workplace has not accommodated a desire for part-time work."

So the problem for most women is there's precious little middle ground between an exhausting juggling act and a risky trip down the offramp, with only a vague hope of getting back in later.

Deloitte, the professional-services firm, is trying to offer up just such a middle ground with a new system called Mass Career Customization.

Under the system, now in a phased rollout, employees are allowed to dial up and dial down their professional commitment, depending on their stage of life, says Cathy Benko, the executive who conceived the system.

"The problem with surveys like this is that they look at one point in time, versus a whole career," said Benko, Deloitte's managing principal of talent, who is herself a mother of two.

Many moms with young kids — some dads, too — want to dial down, but when their kids are older, they'll often want to dial back up.

Dialing down may mean fewer (or different) hours, less compensation or a slower track toward promotion.

But it will be out in the open, and may keep valuable employees with the company.

And they will feel less guilty over doing what everyone does at one point — sneaking out for that PTA meeting or first-grade violin performance.

For a number of women, another answer is to become "mompreneurs" — beginning their own parent-oriented businesses to serve other moms while gaining flexibility they need for their own young families.

Erica Rubach, a 32-year-old mother of two, is one such mompreneur. She left her TV marketing job, with its 60- to 70-hour weeks, and with fellow mother Joani Reisen founded MomSpace, a networking site devoted to matching mothers with services in their communities.

The two now work on their own schedules. They've also given other mothers part-time work — hiring 60 people, mostly women, to sell ads.

Kim Savino, a 42-year-old mother of two with a business degree, is one. The stay-at-home moms she knows often say to her of her part-time work: "How'd you find that?"

And the full-time working moms often say, with envy: "I can't believe you're home today."

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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