Women on the Move

One of the great things about America is that you can always jump ship. No shackling contract ties you to locale or career, and more women are finding that out. Today, women comprise 48 percent of our nation’s workforce, as opposed to 33 percent in l950, according to U.S. Census figures. Those women who have jobs, like their male counterparts, are moving to a new one every four years.

This means that more than ever, working and potentially working women are in an uncertain state of flux. To provide guidance and tools for making the right decisions, the Mercer County Chamber of Commerce and Rider University are offering “Women in Transition” on Thursday, May 22, at 8 a.m. at the Bart Luedeke Center on the Rider campus in Lawrenceville. Cost: $35. Visit www.mercercham– ber.org or call 609-689-9960.

Teena Cahill, director of Witherspoon Street-based Wisdom and Beyond joins attorney Richard Stark of Stark & Stark, at Lenox Drive, as keynote speakers. There are various panels, including “Strategies and Tactics,” featuring such entrepreneurs as Renee Altman of East Windsor’s Personal Computing Training Inc., as well as “Dress for Success,” “Hot Job Markets,” Resume Preparation,” and “Healthcare Opportunities”. The workshop is designed for women of all ages looking to enter the workplace for the first time, or women who are looking to change course.

Cahill, who grew up in rural Marian, Ohio, has always known how to make an entrance and a presentation. A secretary by day and lounge singer by night, Cahill’s mother would take her daughter on her evening gigs. Sipping Cokes on a stool, the youngster studied the crowd. “This is where I first learned about audiences,” Cahill recalls. “I soon saw what they thought, wanted, and what engendered a good response.” Following this early training, Teena won a countywide high school speaking contest offering a scholarship to Ohio State.

Finishing her bachelors in education in l969, Cahill went on to the Florida Institute of Technology, earning her masters in counseling and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology.

Cahill established Wisdom and Beyond, through which she trains groups and individual clients in both business and personal enhancement, in the early 1980s. She has written “The Cahill Factor: Turning Adversity into Advantage.”

“The real truth is that there is no such thing as balance,” says Cahill. “It is a myth dreamt up to hide from women the fact that they were already succeeding on all fronts.” She is announcing these words of encouragement to the new generation of women who have lately become very much on their own. Within the past five years, the number of single women in the United States has risen 87 percent. Women needing advice in career and/or life transition are becoming the majority.

Women’s plight. “Unlike most men, today’s women want time more than money,” says Cahill. This is not terribly surprising when one considers what it takes for women to actually launch a career. As always, there is the family, but that time fraction is growing for most women. Half of women are divorced, making many of them sole or primary caregiver for children. Additionally, with aged parents living longer, the sandwich generation of working peoples have had to double their nurturing, with most of that burden typically falling on the distaff side.

As primary caregivers and comparatively late bloomers into the professional workforce, women are energetically seeking their niche, but in general, they are also setting conditions. The flexible hours that allow for the ebb and flow of family duties are much more deal-breakers than they are for men.

Also, women are insisting on a happy and healthy workplace. Just as they want their living spaces invitingly neat and ordered, ladies, much more than men, take greater concern in their work environs. “It’s silly for corporations to fight this desire,” says Cahill. “In study after study, happiness has proved to be 10 to 25 percent of productivity.”

An equally vital element for women in careers is what Cahill terms “a web of connectedness.” Women are at least as concerned with whom they work, as what they are working on.

Distaff entrepreneurs. According to Cahill, most companies have been very slow to adopt changes that entice women into their offices and keep them there. Through generations of dealing with men, employers came to believe that simply dangling larger and larger salaries before employees will blind them to all other demands. But women are saying no in droves. Among newly launched companies in the United States, 30 percent are owned by women, and 50 percent claim a woman co-owner. If women cannot find the workplace that suits them, they will go out and build their own.

As exhilarating as launching one’s own business is, it is not without risk. The first is that women entrepreneurs, starting up a small business, may be putting themselves right back in their unconnected box. The web they so avidly sought may have to be shelved, while they are striving even harder to find clients, vendors, partners, and funding — alone, on the phone, in the house, at night. “The other large problem I see is that women following this course have no platform of stability,” says Cahill. “These are very tough economic times and only one out of every four new businesses survive through the first year. As a group, this gives women little to bank on.”

Sparks of change. Cahill is not presenting a totally bleak feminine scenario. “While change in the corporate world has been admittedly slow, it is increasing,” she says. More men now are taking on more of the family and home labors. They are discovering the same flexibility and work environment needs, and they are demanding them at work. Corporations are realizing how much they need to hang onto their top talent — an increasing amount of it being female. Thus, accommodations are being made and business is finally accepting the fact that people live in families.

Further aid to women is coming from the family itself. While the immediate family still faces the high divorce rate, the generations are reuniting. Grandparents and seniors are moving back toward their children. Frequently they are taking on the role of work-hour caregivers for the youngsters. “Instead of running off to Florida to take care of their aging parents, those parents moving nearby to be with their working kids and grandkids,” says Cahill.

Yet the real hope comes in women’s greater realization of their many choices. As our own society splinters from rigidly expected styles into “any style goes,” the stay-at-home mom, total career lady, entrepreneur, or any blend becomes not only accepted, but encouraged. The next step is a little courage, a little guidance, and a big plunge. — Bart Jackson

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