Directory:Article Purgatory/Women opting out of the labor force

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Opting out is when very educated and academically qualified women choose to exit the labor force to become full-time mothers. Many of these women held top positions at their respective prestigious firms, which was almost unheard of thirty years ago.Template:Fact New York Times magazine writer Lisa Belkin believes that professional women are opting out of the labor force because they want to. Belkin is critical of this “opting-out revolution” because she feels it signals that women do not want the power that is rightfully theirs. She states, “We've gotten so used to the sight that we've lost track of the fact that this was not the way it was supposed to be. Women specifically, educated professional women were supposed to achieve like men”.[1] Belkin further elaborates that once the playing field was leveled women were supposed to seize their entitlement to half of their share of power.

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In the past women were turned away from leadership positions merely because of their gender but now women are getting out of the labor force increasingly before they reach that top level position.Template:Fact A statement that one of the women Belkin interviewedTemplate:Who stated in reference to her decision was, “Maternity provides an escape hatch that paternity does not. Having a baby provides a graceful and convenient exit" Belkin also states, some highly qualified women only partially exit the labor force by reducing their status to part-time workers rather than full-time workers. She also states that some of these highly qualified women choose to open their own companies after leaving prestigious firms. Belkin’s article is seen as the original source for the idea of opting out. Because of her New York Times article many researchers have sought to delve deeper into the idea of opting out. Template:Ntnes


Brenda Barnes, former CEO of Pepsi-Co in North America, noted that Pepsi-Co was great working environment and they offered her a job that was less demanding with more flexible schedule.[2] However, after a 22-year run she decided that she wanted to quit her job so that she could spend more time with her family and children. Many working women viewed Barnes’ move as setting them back.Template:Fact After seven years, however, Barnes would surprise manyTemplate:Who when she re-entered the labor force and became a CEO again, this time of the Sara Lee Corporation. Barnes is an example of a highly successful professional woman who opted out of the labor force with a powerful position and was able to opt back into the labor force when she was ready to return.

Optioning out vs. opting out

An article released by CGO Insights points out that a number of women are not opting out. Instead they are optioning out. According to CGO Insights there has been a rise in the number of working mothers.[3] They state that in the last 50 years, the percentage of mothers staying at home dropped from seventy-six percent to twenty-eight percent. The article cites the rise of corporate bankruptcies and outsourcing and off-shoring as the primary mechanisms or culprits pushing women to act as “career self agents” by going into business for themselves. This position is one of the primary arguments against the Belkin article implication that women are opting out due to a desire to be more maternal. The Simmons School of Management Leadership Conference study states that, many women are optioning out for more flexible work arrangements instead of opting out. According to this study, these women are seeking “to make employment work in their complex lives.”

Further Criticism of the Belkin Reason for Opting Out

Since the release of the Belkin article in the New York Times Magazine in 2003 there has been more research done to uncover whether or not professional women are opting out. In 2005 BousheyTemplate:Who did a study to test the effect that having children plays in whether or not women opt out. Boushey’s article found that: “The effect of children on women’s labor force participation actually decreased between 1984 and 2004 such that the labor force participation rate of prime-aged women with children was only 8.9 percentage points lower than for women without children.” Boushey’s research indicates that the most probable reason behind the women's fallen labor force participation is that after 2001 the United States has been in a recession.[4] Boushey’s finding further asserts that women are not leaving the workforce because they have this increased maternal drive to do so but rather it is due to their personal circumstances or the circumstances of the economy.

Another example of published opposition to the Belkin idea of the reason for opting out can be seen in the review report published by Joan Williams and colleagues. Williams and colleagues assert that Belkin’s article only covers a small percentage of women and thus should not be portrayed in the media as representative for women as a whole. They also emphasize that Belkin’s article nearly always focuses on women in a one-dimensional way “after they leave the workforce and before they’re divorced” [5]. Williams and colleagues find this problematic and an unrealistic measurement of society because the United States has a divorce rate that includes nearly half its population. They also assert that Belkin’s article points to the strain for familial obligation as the main reason why women exit the labor force. However, according to Williams and colleagues, “A recent study showed that 86% of women cite workplace pushes (such as inflexible jobs) as a key reason for their decision to leave.”

Williams and colleagues make the claim that the reason why many women are leaving the labor force because it is set up to where men are the breadwinners and women are the housewives, which is the idea essentially reflected in the less pay women receive when compared to men in doing the same job. Williams and colleagues report that women are being pushed out of the labor force rather than opting out. They also assert that the United States will not be able to maintain its competitiveness if it continues to pay large amounts of money to educate women who then find themselves pushed out of good jobs and into mediocre jobs due to inflexible workplaces.

Sociologist Pamela Stone also supports the idea women are opting out of the labor force due to the inflexibility of many jobs to accommodate working mothers. Stone’s also points to underlying mechanisms like the stereotype that, “women cannot work and be good mothers at the time,” as one of the culprits pushing women out of the workplace. Stone claims that in not allowing women to work more flexible hours companies make it difficult for them to handle the two obligations [6] . Many women are then forced to choose between their careers and their families. She also discusses the stigma associated with women who choose their careers over their families and women who quit their jobs to focus on their families. Stone also, researches the impact of the labor forces’ ironclad mentalities of family life versus work life impacts fathers who want to spend more time with their children. Stone conducts in-depth interviews with both women and men to uncover these hidden mechanisms.

An article written by Marilyn Gardner notes in a graph entitled "Percent of Stay-At Home Mothers by Race and Family Income" that White women lead black and Hispanic women in “opting” to stay at home.[7]

See also


  1. ^ Belkin, Lisa (2003). "'Opt out' Revolution". The New York Times.
  2. ^ Burns, Greg (2007). “Nobody’s Business But Her Own”. The Chicago Tribune.
  3. ^ Optioning In versus “Opting Out”: Women Using Flexible Work Arrangements for Career Success” (2007). CGO Insights.
  4. ^ Robinson, Rachel Sullivan (2007). Opting-Out Occupationally? US Womens' Post-Birth Occupational Behavior. American University.
  5. ^ Williams, Joan C., Jessica Manvell and Stephanie Bornstein (2006). "'Opt out' or pushed out?: How the press covers work/family conflict". The Center for WorkLife Law, University of California.
  6. ^ Stone, P (2007). “Opting Out: Why Women Really Quit careers and head home. University of California Press. The Regents of the University of California.c1
  7. ^