The lost women - Why you should be hiring people that have taken a career break.

There are half a million professionally qualified women in the UK that are not actively working. Women who take care of their children or elderly relatives are commonly named “the lost women”.  Post Brexit the UK could benefit from £1.7bn that could be made if these women re-entered the workforce and developed their skills and experience.

The career returners market is overflowing with talented well-qualified people and thankfully some employers are starting to switch on to the fact. Nevertheless, this isn’t a simple case of supply and demand.

Women returners tend to apply for roles below their experience levels as a trade-off for more flexibility. A large proportion of part-time career returners are resistant to take on more hours because there is less flexibility at other times (e.g. during school holidays).

Women earn significantly less than their male counterparts on returning to work after a career break. “Out of practice”, “lacking in confidence” and “nervous to ask for a promotion or raise” are just some of the things women have reported when returning to work

Studies show that employers are more likely to hire a person that is less qualified and less experienced than someone who has taken more than 6 months off. Many people that have taken time off from work are very keen to return. Their reasons may vary, from financially wanting to feel valued and wanting to grow and expand their career.  With the upcoming extension to working life due to the lack of retirement funding, suspended parenthood and more variable career patterns, career breaks should be seen more as the norm rather than something that holds people back.

So how can employers make the most of these valuable women returners?

Support hires via structured returnship programs and use a career returners expert to facilitate the process of getting a rusty hire up to speed in their new role. This will assist returners to work to reach their previous level in a relatively short period. Their skills, capabilities and experience are still there; they just need support with confidence, preparedness and perhaps updating their IT skills and industry knowledge.

Being able to talk about flexible working arrangements is important. What one employee needs could be completely different to another. As employers, you should be open to provide different options for all your employees, that way everyone will be involved in caring responsibilities. Focus should be on results rather than ‘presentism’ where it’s possible.

Gender diversity is being widely accepted now in businesses. Mindful employers are now turning to the amazing pool of “lost women” to attract them back into the working world to for fill their resourcing gaps and talent pipelines. 

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