To return to work or not?

A few years ago, I attended session in which senior women professionals from core engineering companies like Motorala and Google spoke about career growth.

After the session, an undergraduate student mentioned her concern to the panel members. She said, "You spoke a lot about professional growth. I feel that when we become mothers, our careers take a backseat and we might not return to the workforce."

This comment was coming from a young female undergraduate student, who did not have children yet.

One of the speakers had a response that I remember clearly to this day. 

I took a break after my son was born. I stayed at home for about 6 years. I can never forget the day I decided to get back to work. We used to have a spot on the stairs which always accumulated dust. That day, it occurred to me that I clean this stubborn dust day after day. If I stay at home, a significant portion of my life will be spent cleaning that mole of dust and doing the same household chores every day.
I wanted to do more.
You always have a choice to get back. You have to remember that.

Most of the women drop out of the career ladder after they have children. The break extends longer than expected. The support from the family in most cases determines whether the woman can rejoin the workforce or not. Some women choose not to return based on their personal preferences, which is perfectly alright.

A few others restart their career in the same field or an area in which they are passionate about. In this fast-paced technological world, career switches have become easier. Premier educational institutions like Harvard University, Columbia University and Drexel University offer online certificate courses across wide domains. Edx and Coursera provides a comprehensive listing of courses from about 120 Universities.

Online courses allow women who took a break to venture into new area and have a mix of useful and up-to-date skills. There are unlimited venues to explore and grow.  

The first step is to make the choice. The next step is to take small steps towards making your choice a reality. 

Dr. Soumya Gudiyella is a Post-doctoral Associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She investigates fuel treatment strategies to nip pollutant emissions in the bud. Prior to joining MIT, she worked at GE's research lab in Bangalore, India and contributed towards building clean and efficient combustion engines. 

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