I decided to not write about Sue Shellenbarger’s most recent Tuesday column when I first read it. I was sure I was overreacting, my fury was so great. So I waited till today and, guess what? It’s even worse than I thought:
Lots of employers would like to be able to hire cheap, temporary teams of seasoned pros with experience managing $2 billion investment portfolios, running ad campaigns or earning Ph.D.s in neuroscience.
But few know the secret to finding temps of that caliber: Look on playgrounds and at PTA meetings.
The decision among some highly educated women to stay home with children is sparking a countertrend: The rise of the mommy “SWAT team.” The acronym, for “smart women with available time,” is one mother’s label for all-mom teams assembled quickly through networking and staffing firms to handle crash projects.
And, in case the word “cheap” did not tip you off to what is going on here, Shellenbarger chirps on:
The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School was able to muster an “incredibly talented” team with eight at-home mothers – including a Stanford University Ph.D. in neuroscience, a University of Virginia M.B.A., an attorney and a former news executive – by tapping female staffers’ neighborhood networks, says Mindy Storrie, Kenan-Flagler’s director of leadership.
The team taught leadership skills to 100 M.B.A. candidates last year by role-playing difficult management situations with them and critiquing their performances. The simulation training was so successful that enrollment doubled this spring and Kenan-Flagler made it mandatory for leadership training. Cost to the B-school: $21 an hour per woman.
Still don’t get it? Here’s more:
Michelle Fenton used to manage $2 billion in assets for Invesco AIM. But because the Denver executive quit her job a year ago to care for her two children, she was available to work for far less than one-tenth of her former salary to help tiny TangentWorks, a Web project-integration start-up, write a business plan. Her marketing partner on the project, which was staffed by Flexible Executives of Atlanta: Liz Ward, who used to direct the Levi Strauss, Dockers and Pillsbury brands for the ad agency Foote, Cone & Belding, then ran her own successful ad consultancy for several years.
For TangentWorks, deploying those two “was like having a C-level team” – chief financial and marketing officers – “without the salaries,” says Zaina Ajakie, CEO of the three-employee firm.
Take out the word “mommy” and replace it with “retirees.” Would Shellenbarger have the nerve to write that old-timers should work cheap because they have the temerity to no longer work full-time in the American workforce? I doubt it very much.
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