If you leave the workforce, you generally don’t get paid. It’s that simple. Yes, there are Employment Insurance, pension and employer supplemental benefits and investment income that might provide some income protection until you return, but generally speaking, you’re on your own. There are also some women who don’t return to the workforce, opting to stay at home to raise the new family.
It strikes me odd that so much research is devoted to why women’s pay lags her male colleague’s. I don’t think there much mystery. TD Bank has come out with this recent report called Career Interrupted: The Economic Impact of Motherhood. Rather than take the normal position and research why women are paid less then men, it starts a new generation of research (mostly because everyone already knows that women are paid less than men so why bother figuring it out anymore) that delves into some interesting studies about how the length of absence versus the frequency of absences from the workforce play a role and which is actually worse (women are better off with a longer absence than a more frequent absence [read: few kids] and if they go back to the same employer they tend not to be penalized as much [read: you have a government job]). The report also suggests that the female working group, ages 25-44 (hey, wait a minute… does that mean most women retire at 44?) is not increasing much in population. That spells trouble for the diversity initiative trying to get more women into the boardroom and on to Boards.
I know why my income is not at par with my husband’s. I also know why my income is not at par with my female friends who took no time from the workforce other than legislated maternity and parental leave. I just simply failed to keep up because I was busy with other things (read: 3 kids and more volunteer work).
Here’s the study I want to see: show me what a mother’s absence from the workforce does to favour her partner’s career. I can bet you my monthly RESP contribution that my absence from the workforce facilitated my husband’s career and ultimately our net worth. My absence from the workforce allowed him to totally focus on his career and its progression and , in the end, I bet our net worth is better off than had I not left the workforce. I’m reasonably certain that had I stayed as focused and ambitious as I was before children, his career might not have taken as steep a climb as it did.
I guess some women would take offence to this correlation as it smacks of anti-women’s rights or diminishes the father’s role as a caregiver. Maybe. Or just maybe in the end, we both got what we wanted. That’s ok, isn’t it?