working-mom.jpgI was watching an episode of Top Chef Just Desserts on Bravo last night, and I almost fell off my chair when a talented pastry chef bowed out of the competition presumably for her kids.

ameen.jpgMalika Ameen, a 35-year-old Chicago native and mother of three boys, studied at the French Culinary Institute and was starting to get a good reputation in the Chicago food scene. Snagging a spot on the show was quite a feat for any aspiring chef. But last night she decided to drop the whole thing even though she had just been showered with praise by the judges for her saffron panna cotta.

For weeks she had been talking about how much she missed her children, but it was a shocker when she walked away from it all. She seemed to offer a lame excuse that she wasn’t big on competition, but she was clearly dropping the blame for her departure on her children.

Is this a dumb or smart move? And why is it that women so often use their kids as an excuse for not following their dreams?

A study out this week found that executive women are twice as likely to quit their jobs as executive men, either voluntarily and involuntarily.

The lead author John Becker-Blease, an assistant professor of finance at Oregon State University, and his co-authors at Loyola Marymount University and Trinity College, culled the data from Standard & Poor’s 1500 firms.

About 7.2 percent of women executives in the survey left their jobs, compared to 3.8 percent of men. Both the voluntary rates (4.3 percent versus 2.8 percent for men) and the involuntary rates (2.9 versus 0.9 percent) were higher for women executives.

“Departures of powerful female executives, as we saw with Carly Fiorina and Patricia Dunn at Hewlett-Packard, are often high-profile news events,” Becker-Blease said. “Despite these very public departures, relatively little is really known about women executives, whether they are more likely to depart or be fired than men, and the reasons for their departures.”

The case of Ameen might offer some insights.

In an interview with the Chicago Sun Times before the show started, Ameen said:

“It was a very, very tough year,” Ameen, 35, says. “And when this opportunity came, I thought, why not?

“It was something really exciting and different. It was really outside of the box of anything I would do.”

In the last year, she had shuttered the restaurant she ran with her husband and then the couple divorced. Clearly, this poor woman was under pressure and who knows how much of the responsibilities at home were left on her shoulders. But now she had a huge opportunity to solidify her career.

She chose to walk away.

I’m not saying what she did was right or wrong, but it definitely causes a twinge in my stomach when I see working mothers give up. I know, I’m not being totally fair.

During the same episode, one of the wackier contestants on the show had an anxiety attack and was booted off by the producers. He cried and whined throughout the first few episodes and all I kept thinking was, ‘thank goodness he’s not a woman” because it would just be perpetuating the stereo type so many people have about women.

Maybe that’s what bugs me about Ameen. I hate when people say, “yet another working mom can’t handle the heat in the kitchen.”

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