This feels fairly momentous: The prestigious consulting firm McKinsey & Co. is reaching out to female employees who quit their jobs years ago to start families, seeing if they’re reading to return to work. The move signals a sea change in the way that major companies approach work/life balance, particularly for women, who often end up opting out rather than soldiering on. Is this the beginning of a new era?
The Wall Street Journal, which says details of the recruitment program are still sketchy, has the story: It can take an MBA between 6 and 8 years to make partner, which means many women become partners just as they’re ready to have children. Many end up leaving altogether. “Most companies simply acknowledge the departures and move on,” the paper writes, “but some of them are starting to recruit talented women who are ready to resume work.”
As the Journal sums it up, “the effort is one small signal that at least some companies are re-examining some of the most basic terms of women’s working lives.” Other companies cited in the article include Goldman Sachs and Boston Consulting Group. At Bain & Co., more than 100 women have returned to work since 2000, and more than 80% of female partners have taken advantage of flex time.
The move isn’t a cure-all to the thorny question of work/life balance raised so effectively by Anne-Marie Slaughter‘s Atlantic cover story last year, “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All.” But the fact that a high-echelon company is taking steps to recapture some of its departed female employees feels like one small step for wealthy white-collar women, one giant step for womankind.