Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The mommy track

My 10-year [Harvard] law school reunion fell when I was six months into my second pregnancy. I found myself rehearsing in front of a mirror a witty remark about being CEO of my household. I expected a bad-sit-com scene with the other women in my class as legal superstars and me as the lone stay-at-home mom. "They're all going to be saying I just made partner, I just got tenure," I lamented to my husband. But they didn't. At the end of the reunion evening, my classmates and I compared notes and discovered that only one woman (of the 30 or so in attendance) was still a full-time practicing attorney. "Is our whole class on the mommy track?" I wondered, a little relieved.

When I told my mom about the reunion, she had a different question: "I guess we're not the only ones who wasted a hundred thousand dollars in tuition, then?" Although her comment was punctuated by a good-natured chuckle, I couldn't laugh it off. She and my dad had moved to Baltimore from Korea, working 16-hour days in a tiny, vaultlike grocery store protected by bullet-proof glass, skimping and saving for my tuition. Had I squandered my parents' years of sacrifice? ...

Curious about how my classmates were managing this tricky business of work-life balance, I conducted a little homespun survey of the 226 women in my law-school class. More than 90 percent of them responded. ...

According to my survey, the majority of the women of the class of 1993 of Harvard Law School have left the fast track. Thirty percent of the respondents have mommy track jobs, with 21 percent working part-time and 9 percent working full-time with special arrangements like job-sharing and working nonconventional hours. Another 30 percent of the respondents stay at home, most having "off-ramped" with the expectation of going back to work when their children are older.
--Angie Kim, Slate, on the prevalence of opting out among Harvard Law grads

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