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Start-Up Keeps Stay-at-Home Moms on the Career Track

Photograph by Twenty20

Too short (and unpaid) maternity leaves, expensive childcare and long commutes are all reasons a large number of educated and skilled women leave the workforce after they have kids. What becomes clear pretty quickly for these women is that they're giving up way more than a job: they're giving up the independence money brings, they're leaving blank years on their résumés and they're no longer exercising the specific muscles that made them really good at the jobs they have left behind.

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Most women who go the so-called "opt-out route" wish the career family thing didn't have to be so black and white. They'd like to stay in the game—at least sometimes. They often wish they could work in their fields—just a little less. They'd like a paycheck, to stay fresh, to take care of more than kids and a household.

Chicago's Allison Robinson recognized the desire many mothers have to focus on family for a few years (or decades) but not walk entirely away from careers and corporate America's increasing demand for contract workers. She put the two together and created The Mom Project, a for-profit company that aims to fill temporary and permanent positions with highly skilled women who, for different reasons, stepped out of the workforce.

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Robinson, who's on a 12-month partially paid maternity leave from Procter & Gamble, launched the company after reading in the Harvard Business Review that "43 percent of highly skilled women with children voluntarily leave their jobs." She also recognized a desire among them to stay relevant and paid, but through more flexible work.

She started her talent network, which works like an Airbnb for talent, with women and companies in the Chicago area. The Chicago Tribune reports that candidates "must have an undergraduate degree and five years of professional experience, and must undergo an interview with a talent manager. More than half of the recruits have a master's degree or higher."

But like all good and modern companies, Robinson says The Mom Project is equal opportunity. Among the moms and women who make up the bulk of the talent network also includes a few men.

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