Jodi Beggs' Boston Globe OpEd presents an excellent, clear analysis of the pay gap and the penalties for women taking career breaks.
The "trading compensation for control" solution some women choose when returning to work after a career break can be a realistic strategy for a first foray back into the workforce. This option for women returning from career breaks is to take less money than they think is fair or than they think they are worth, in order to get the schedule they want.
Separately, women returning to the workforce who intentionally take a lower compensated job than what they had before their career break, do so for the following reasons: 1) Their pre-career break job required spontaneous travel (no advance notice) or 24/7 accountability, and they don’t want that kind of job anymore, even if it means lower pay. 2) They simply want a less stressful job than they had before, so they can deliver excellent results to their employer and manage their life outside of work. 3) They have been out of the workforce for a long time and want to take a more junior role in order to get their feet wet again before feeling ready to contribute at a higher level. 4) They were not on the right career path to begin with, so they are not only re-entering the workforce, but they are transitioning to a new career, and need to start in a lower compensated, more junior role.
Whether it’s trading compensation for control, or intentionally taking a lower compensated role, these decisions contribute to why we see studies showing women’s compensation dropping 37 – 40% after career breaks of three years or more. Note these studies focus on the women's first position back when she reenters the workforce, and not her compensation over time.
At iRelaunch, we have not seen any longitudinal studies on compensation levels over time once women have returned to the workforce after a hiatus, but anecdotal evidence from women among the thousands in our iRelaunch "return-to-work" community point to increased compensation over time (through raises and promotions, a business that becomes successful, a part time consulting role turns into a conventional full time job). Additionally, the formal returning professional internship programs on Wall Street and beyond are establishing a short-term career reentry route to fairly compensated, permanent, full-time roles in prominent companies. We expect more companies in STEM, legal, and other male-dominated industries to follow the lead demonstrated in the financial services sector.