Adopting The 'Mommy Track'

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, left, hugs actor Kirk Douglas, right, at a dinner party after the Prime Minister addressed the General Assembly of United Jewish Communities in Los Angeles on Nov. 14, 2006. AP

As part of a growing trend in the U.S. economy, the part-time workforce now includes 5 million highly educated professionals, including doctors, lawyers and corporate executives. CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports on why the fast track may now include the mommy track.
Lorraine Voles is a high-powered Washington public relations executive, who once worked in the White House as communications director for the vice president. "I worked long hours, long days," she says.

She's also a mother to two young children, Ruby and Angus, and found her life so overwhelming something had to give.

"I felt like someone was losing every day," Voles says. "If it wasn't my husband, it was my children. If it wasn't my children, it was the vice president, and if it wasn't the vice president, it was me."

So she left the White House, but not to be a full-time mom. Instead she became one of a new breed of part-time workers, professional people who are choosing to work less and earn less, so they can have more control over their lives.

Says Patrice Parsons, a senior manager at Ernst and Young, "I'm working Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays."

Parsons works part time, too. Five years ago her accounting firm realized it was losing valuable employees who felt they couldn't successfully combine a high-stress job with a family. So it designed a new kind of workplace, one where you can work part time and still make partnership.

"The day I was promoted they said, 'don't think of it in terms of time served; it's your ability,'" says the certified public accountant.

This represents a shift in attitude for American business. Eighty-five percent of companies now say they consider part-time employees permanent and valuable, proving the "mommy track" is no longer a dead end.

Says Deborah Holmes of Ernst and Young, who designed the flexible work policy, "There is really no reason that you shouldn't be able to combine a challenging career with a life outside work."

Today 2,000 Ernst and Young employees are working part time. They are taking advantage of a booming economy and setting limits on how much of their lives they'll devote to work.

"We are in an extraordinarily tight labor market. And so finding people is tough; keeping them is tough," Holmes says. "Anything that you can do as an employer to differentiate yourself is just smart."

"They benefit in that I still work for them," Parsons says, laughing. "Because if I couldn't work it out to work on a reduced schedule, I wouldn't be working."

These days, with her new work situation, Voles brags about no longer having a hurry-up life.

"It's being able to walk my kids to camp, drive them to school, know their teachers, know their friends, participate a little bit in what's going on in their lives," she confides.

Increasingly Americans are finding they don't have o choose between success on the job and life outside it. In fact, this may be the first generation of working parents that truly believes they can have it all.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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