Women returning from hiatus have uphill battle. Upper- and middle-management women who take more than two years off from their career track and later want to return to work were the focus of a study of 130 women conducted between December 2004 and March 2005 by the Wharton Center for Leadership and Change.
Sixty percent returned to work and 32 percent were searching for re-entry. The study looked at what obstacles they encountered and what individuals, businesses, and universities can do to overcome those challenges. Whether they had been out of the corporate world for two years or eight, and in spite of their degrees (81 held MBAs), the women were not seen as attractive candidates for full-time positions and rarely were offered executive positions, according to "Back in the Game," the study’s executive summary.
Some of the major obstacles the women faced were: age (83% were older than 35), need for updated skills, being treated at job interviews as if they had nothing to offer an employer or as if they had vanished during their hiatus, negative views about time off for child care, and skeptical hiring professionals at corporations who don’t understand the challenges women face re-entering the workforce.
What can women do to help? Stay connected. Realize there may be a stepping-stone phase to get to where you want to go. Keep in touch with colleagues from work and college. Make professional connections wherever you happen to be (on the soccer field or at your child’s music lessons).
Other ways for women to keep abreast of changes and use their skills to prepare for returning to the workforce later include: doing occasional work (even at their child’s school) that utilizes their talents, knowledge and skills; set aside one day a week to stay in the game; have lunch one day a week with someone from their profession; meet people for coffee to stay connected; or join a board to maintain professional identity. These measures not only help fill in the employment gap, but also make women feel better about them.
Other steps include:
* Create a re-entry plan with specific measurable goals. Regain corporate polish before staring the re-entry process.
* Create a support network, preferably before taking time off.
* Maintain professional licenses and memberships, attend continuing educational events such as conferences, take skills refresher classes, and stay informed about global and economic changes impacting your field.
* Be realistic about how long it will take to return to work and prepare financially.
(Reprinted from CMI E-bridge #281. Source: SHRM HR News)