Despite sweeping shifts in gender roles over the past few decades, first and second wave feminists continue to scrutinize the woman's role in society. Is it as a mother, at home with the kids? Is it as a career-oriented trailblazer, eschewing the concept of family and making as much -- no, more -- of a mark on the world than her male counterparts? Is it each woman's choice?
What has emerged is the idea that a woman's character is described not by whether a woman raises a family, chooses a career or both, but by the drive they have toward whatever they decide to do. And a new term has been coined that accurately captures this idea: power mom. It also describes the power women wield in the 21st century. Media research company Nielsen shows that American moms represent $2 trillion in spending to U.S. markets. A 2008 survey by the Families and Work Institute showed that 21 percent more working mothers under age 29 said they wanted more responsibility at work than in 2002. For those power moms looking for a career revival, starting from scratch or switching jobs, we've compiled a list of 10 career choices, based on accessibility, flexibility of schedule and average income.
When the Internet came along, the world of publishing opened up to a new medium. No more would the word be relegated exclusively to the printed page and, as a result, a number of new writing jobs have developed.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there were 151,700 writers and authors employed in the United States in 2008. A median annual income of about $53,000 can mean a lot of extra cheese for a power mom's family. Because of the nature of the job, writing hours are often flexible with deadlines often serving as the only time constraint, especially in the case of freelance writing positions.
Some power moms have combined their family life with work by creating blogs based on their daily situations. Lisa Belkin's parenting blog on the New York Times site and Asha Dornfest's Parent Hacks blog are two good examples; both made Nielsen's Power Mom 50, a list of top voices in the blogosphere. While a writer like Belkin is paid by the hosting site, Dornfest's model derives income from hosting ads on her blog's pages.
For the same reasons that new writing jobs were created in the post-dot-com era, so too were new jobs for editors. Someone has to clean and polish the mess that writers turn in, after all. While editors are often expected to edit the work of more than one writer, the BLS says that there were about as many people working as editors as there were writers in the U.S. in 2008, around 130,000 -- with a median salary of $49,900.
Like writing positions, the hours of an editor are often very flexible, with deadlines serving as the key time constraint.
While writers can lean on talent to get new jobs, editors are often expected to have a degree (or prior experience in the field). This doesn't necessarily mean a degree in journalism or English has to hang in your home study. Editors can make the leap from any field that requires professional-caliber writing, like psychology, public relations or communications. "Ideal candidates will have copy editing experience strong writing skills, a keen eye for detail, a firm grasp of AP [Associated Press] style and a dedicated work ethic," reads one posting for a freelance copyediting position .
This is definitely one career that requires a degree (a couple, actually) and a passing score on the state bar exam. For power moms who served as attorneys in the past, however, now is as great a time as ever to dust off the law degree and take the test again.
For legal positions that don't require a presence in the courtroom, corporations are allowing more flexible time than in the past. For example, Christine Bloomquist, a partner at the Washington D.C. law firm Reed Smith and mother of three, telecommutes two days a week and works from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
One reason for the increased responsiveness to allowing telecommuting and flexible hours is certainly due to the ubiquity of inexpensive telecommunications like smartphones and wireless Internet access. But another may be an impending change in the demographics of the legal workforce. More women are entering law school today than earlier in the 21st century. The University of California at Davis School of Law, for example, saw a 2009 entering class that was 55 percent female. Many firms are responding to an increased demand for a work/life balance by allowing more flexible schedules for working mothers.
7. Financial Services
Depending on qualifications and a love of numbers and raw data, the financial services sector provides a wide spectrum of careers for power moms. As with attorneys, accounts must have a degree and certification to work, but former certified public accountants (CPA) who opted to stay at home with the kids and are looking to re-enter the work force have a strong foundation for taking on clients from home or working less than five days a week at the offices of a small firm. A power mom with a head for numbers and without an accounting degree can enter the field as a bookkeeper. Taking on a single first client -- a small business owner would be preferential -- is a good first move. As the kinks are worked out and the balance between family and work is steadied, more clients can be added. One of the benefits of bookkeeping is the low overhead it requires. A fax machine, a computer with Internet access and spreadsheet software is virtually all you need. Since we're talking careers, power moms might want to go for a degree in accounting. Reputable online degrees are becoming more prevalent as schools migrate to the Web. It will be worth the investment; in 2008, bookkeepers in the U.S. earned a median salary of $32,510, while accountants earned an average of $65,840.
A power mom who left her field to stay at home took something very valuable with her: experience and insight. These can be powerful tools for companies looking for an outside view of their operations, their clients and their competitors.
Consulting is arguably the most powerful power mom career of all. In addition to money, the field commands respect -- the kind that power moms are used to commanding from their families. Consulting can be as simple as working on a contract or freelance basis for the power mom's former employer or as complex as establishing a consulting firm and taking on both clients and consultants.
Power moms looking for something in between these two extremes can sign on as a consultant for firms that match consultants with the businesses that need them. Firms like National Executive Service Corps matches members of the business force with nonprofits that need a little executive structure. One power mom, Stacy DeBroff, combined her parenting expertise with consulting and formed Mom Central, an online clearinghouse that uses the blogosphere for word-of-mouth marketing to moms.
In a post on her Down to Earth blog, best-selling author Jane Green describes power moms as being, "The first volunteer for classroom duties. She's the Secret Storyteller who shows up not just with a great book, but with home-made double chocolate chip fudge caramel whirl brownies to boot".
A logical extension of this classroom-centered enthusiasm among power moms, then, would be a career in teaching. Becoming a substitute teacher is a logical first step for power moms who've never served as teachers. Requirements to become a sub vary from region to region. States like California require substitutes to hold a bachelor's degree, while Wyandotte County, Mich., allows substitutes who never graduated from college, but hold credit for 90 or more hours at an institute of higher education.
For power moms who hold a master's degree, teaching positions at postsecondary institutions like community college are open, and those with doctorates can find jobs as professors at four-year institutions. While subs have the most flexible schedules, professors aren't far behind. Postsecondary educators worked an average of 15 to 22 hours per week, with part-time (adjunct) professors working fewer hours.
4. Graphic Design
Again, the Internet revolution free power moms to create their own schedules. Those who harbor a talent for creating and manipulating images may be well-served by pursuing a career in graphic design.
Like positions as writers and editors, graphic designers can have a tremendous amount of flexibility in their schedules. Having an Internet connection and the necessary software on a home computer can allow for remote working and telecommuting. Freelance graphic design is also generally deadline-driven: Companies usually seek designers with an education in art or experience in the field. Moms can build portfolios fairly quickly by starting out in something like freelance ad design for a local paper or creating flyers for small businesses.
Graphic designers pull down an average annual income of $43,380. Entering the profession does require a bit of up-front investment in the specialized software required to create saleable work. At last check, aspiring designers can buy Adobe's multi-program Creative Suite (an industry gold standard) for around $1,600.
3. Real Estate
There's a reason power moms have "power" in the title. Their eyes for detail and seemingly endless reserves of energy make power moms ideal candidates for careers in real estate. Love closing a deal in a cutthroat industry? Real estate is perfect, then. It also dovetails nicely with the demands of a family, as hours are often by appointment.
This does not, however, mean hours are light. Real estate agents commonly work 40-hour weeks and odd hours that make them available to people in the market for homes but can't take off during regular office hours to go house hunting. Working out a flexible schedule can be left to the power mom, though, as 59 percent of realtors (making a median income of around $40,000) in the U.S. in 2008 were self-employed.
Becoming a real estate agent will require an up-front investment, with broker school, which can cost around $350, and licensing fees, which will set you back less than $100.
2. Health Care
Reviving the health of ailing people can take a great many forms, and a number of these forms follow 12-hour shifts three or four days a week.
A three-day-on, four-day-off schedule can provide a lot of solid time for a power mom to spend with her family. What's more, there are plenty of careers to choose from. In 2008, 10 of the 20 fastest growing fields in the U.S. were in health care, with 14.3 million jobs already in existence and another 3.2 million expected to be created by 2018.
These range widely, by facility and level of expertise and education. On the end of the spectrum, with the highest pay and educational requirements are, of course, physicians. Power moms can also enter the field as nurses, lab technicians or by any other route. A number of the top hospitals in the country, like the Mayo Clinic, will pay for a nursing or medical school education for its employees outright, and most hospitals contribute something toward tuition as well.
Be forewarned, however: 12-hour shifts can be grueling. One 2004 study of Taiwanese electronics workers on these shifts found higher than average incidences of addiction, depression and paranoia.
There is little stopping a power mom from going all out. We've mentioned a few career tracks that can be extended into the realm of self-employment, like freelancing. What about starting a new business?
In the U.S., there are a number of organizations, both governmental and private, that are dedicated to nurturing business ownership among women. The U.S. Small Business Administration maintains an Office of Women's Business Ownership department that serves as a clearinghouse for grants, advice and aid for female business owners.
A good business requires smart planning. Spend a bit of time and money learning how to properly write business plans, or tap a fellow power mom who freelances as a technical writer. Tap another who's an accountant to help you come up with a realistic estimate of how much money you'll need to borrow. The SBA advises that you borrow enough to cover all start-up costs (like equipment or building out a retail space), plus enough to cover a full year of operating costs. This includes a salary for the business owner and all employees, plus what the business will need in supplies and to keep the lights on.