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Women today have proved to the world that they are competent to take on any role and job they aim for. Be it Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space in 1963 or Stacey Cunningham hitting the headlines for being the first woman to lead New York Stock Exchange in 2018. But in reality, they are the exception than the rule. Most women are still struggling to keep afloat in a corporate setting and it’s even more challenging for those who want to come back into the workforce. The world is not kind to a career break on your resume. It raises a lot of eyebrows and concerns. Let us throw some light on this subject to understand better.
What are some of the major reasons women take a career break?
There are several reasons women opt for a career break. Some of them are:
- Relocation of a partner
- Migration to a new country
- Redundancy or end of contract
- Higher Education
- Sabbatical – travel, volunteering
What challenges women face returning to the workforce after a career break?
- Skill gap:
In skilled labour like IT or finance, one needs to be up-to-date with the changes. A long career break creates a bigger skill gap.
- Employer’s skepticism:
It raises questions on one’s capability, seriousness and time commitments which makes the employer skeptical to hire women after a break especially mothers with young ones.
- Position/role offered:
Usually the position and salary offered to women after her break is lower than the market standards. They are asked to compromise on these things, as company view it as an investment to hire women with a career gap.
This is a major challenge for women who are joining back the workforce who have young children. Most companies lack childcare facilities and do not provide the flexibility to accommodate the lack of it.
Being on an extended career break makes one doubt their confidence, whether they will be able to perform well at work, adapting to a new environment and most importantly managing home and work diligently.
What can employers do better to absorb women back into the workforce seamlessly?
- Work Policies:
Companies need to create an environment which is flexible like allowing work from home when required, flexible work timings, providing childcare facilities and right project allocation.
- Company Culture:
Moving away from micro-management and having the trust that they will complete the task assigned. Boosting their confidence, hand-holding them in their initial return and assigning them a mentor can be helpful. To not set them up for failure but provide an environment to thrive and grow.
- Equality at Work:
To not hold the gap against them and allowing them to compete equally for promotions, internal opportunities etc. One must look at their potential and skill they bring in.
How can women with a career gap be more ready for their return?
- Be mentally prepared:
To prepare oneself of their return. One would have to work hard to prove themselves again in the professional world or if you are a mother, ensuring your child/children are taken care of while away at work, is important.
During the break, try networking with professionals to understand the job market, the current trends and to assist with the right job openings.
- Skill update:
There are many online tools and websites today that can aid in one’s self learning. Learning new skills, sharing knowledge or attending relevant conferences and seminars during the break if possible is very helpful.
Maybe taking up some assignments relevant to the field can add to the resume during the time off.
- Be sure of what’s next:
A sabbatical gives one time to think and many a times explore oneself. Be sure of having clear goals, it helps to find the right job.
It has been proved that companies that provide the right kind of environment for women who would like to come back into the workforce after a break, tend to be more diligent and great employees. We are not asking for exceptions but just to provide a platform to those who are ready to come back into the workforce. If we mitigate the challenges in front of us today we can solve the problem of women hesitating to take a break to start a family or settle down and the lack of diversity at workplace. A win-win situation for all.
You may also want to read other article written by the same author ‘Career tracking while on a career break‘
About the author:
The first time Susan Kutar (Tamang) realized that words could touch lives, she wanted to be a writer and blogger. She has 7 years of experience in Human Resources and Talent Acquisition. She likes to write about topics that impact people, which is educational and leaves the reader with something to mull over.
(The author is a guest blogger at Her Second Innings. The opinions expressed are those of the author.)
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