Before I became a mother, I was free to climb the corporate ladder with an enthusiasm and a potential that was relatively unfettered by outside obligations; my only duty was to my own satisfaction and happiness.

Since then however, things have become quite a bit more complicated as I struggle to find the right balance for my family and for myself. I’ve come to realize that achieving this balance is a conspicuous struggle for working mothers, and as such, it has become a great interest of mine.

Lisa Quast recently wrote an illuminating article for Forbes discussing the causes and consequences of the increasing number of women in the workforce, and it was a great crash course in the history of how we got to where we are now.

Here is the abbreviated version of Quast’s causes and consequences list:

Causes

  • World War II labor shortages
  • Rise of the feminist movement
  • Economic necessity
  • Passage of governmental equal rights acts
  • Rise of the service sector and decline of the manufacturing sector
  • Expansion and increased access to higher education

Consequences

  • Increased purchasing power of women
  • Business result improvements
  • Increased Gross Domestic Product
  • Increased number of women owned businesses
  • Less time for mothers to spend with children due to their work schedules
  • Increased stress levels and changing roles
  • Difficulty accessing quality childcare
  • Changing how people work
  • Changing the school schedules of children

Clearly, while women have made great contributions to the bottom line for companies as well as their own families, there is a price to pay which we can no longer ignore. No matter how you slice it, balancing childcare, household responsibilities, and work is a feat that is rarely achieved without a significant measure of stress on families, as well as on society as a whole.

An article in The Economist entitled Female Power perfectly sums up this period of flux and uncertainty in the landscape of family and career: “If the empowerment of women was one of the great changes of the past 50 years, dealing with its social consequences will be one of the great challenges of the next 50.”

Fortunately, corporations are coming to recognize the female workforce as a valuable asset. According to a feature story I saw on ABC News this evening, a company with women on the payroll has 35% higher equity than a company without. In light of statistics like this, companies are willing to take strides to better accommodate employees who are trying balance work and family.

Google, for example, provides its employees 18 months of maternity leave… in addition to 7 months of paternity leave! Now that’s the kind of progress that we need to achieve a speedy and stable balance for society as a whole.

What issues and rewards have you personally encountered in your quest to balance career and family?