Where Are Those Smart Women Who Should Be Hired With ‘Return To Work’ Programmes?

Posted: February 28, 2019

Workplaces seem to be paying just lip service to “diversity” and “return-to-work-programmes”. How many of these amazing women who take a maternity break, for example, are re-hired?

When I was in college during my graduate and post-graduate days, I was surrounded by these amazing, smart, sharp and super intelligent women with a cosmopolitan sensibility who believed that they were born to do something really really big. These women were ready to take on the world when they passed out of these great institutions with hope and audacious goals.

Cut to the modern day workplace

I’m looking for those women. I miss them. Where did they go? They were all around me, and we were all hungry to achieve and accomplish big dreams not just for ourselves but for the world too. We were meant to make a difference. I’m saddened beyond words to see that ….they fell off of the workforce. Their trajectories changed and our organizations could not absorb the change, leaving them with little or no option but to leave.

While there are limited entry points for women to get into professional careers there are multiple exit points – marriage, pregnancy, childbirth, childcare, elderly care, lack of family support and the list is endless.

It’s ironic that while the professional world loves to talk about women talent and their issues, no one barring a handful are actually willing to have them back. Why I wonder …. these are those very women who blazed in their careers, who were competent, who were super smart, knew their mind and were willing to stick it out…

The knife of “womanly duties”

Women typically drop out of the workforce in their 30’s to do all the “womanly” duties only to return in their 40’s. Too much time elapses between these two decades.

While most intelligent women are prepared to warm themselves up for this comeback, its rather painful to see that while they may be still relevant to the professional world and may have a lot to offer in terms of experience, maturity, balance, sensitivity and creativity to workplace, most organizations don’t necessarily recognize that.

Unique skills moms returning to work can bring

Don’t forget these very talented intelligent women who fell off the workforce due to the restrictive and sometimes regressive workplace policies actually go through a lot of rich experiences which men can only “imagine”.

Pregnancy, child-birth, changing diapers all night, dealing with bodily changes, feeding babies, spending sleepless nights with sick kids, managing poop and puke with equal elan, handling older kids alongside in some cases, managing homes – sometimes with limited resources, teaches them extremely valuable organizational lessons of resilience, patience, balance, emotional maturity, sensitivity, resource optimization, self awareness, ownership, empathy and much more…

Aren’t these the very attributes our leadership development programs in organizations focus on?

Don’t organizations spend millions of dollars to build a pipeline of leaders who are self-aware, demonstrate empathy, are resilient and possess emotional maturity? Well, here you have a whole cadre of enriched women who come back to the workforce with exactly that.

And you don’t even acknowledge them or on the contrary, dismiss that time period as “unproductive” hence not counted?

So you start at 40 from where you left at 30!

Our orgs not cashing in on this – what a loss!

It’s truly disturbing and needs urgent disruption. I know too many women in this trap and that needs to be broken.

Enough has been said about this issue… its now time to see some real action on the ground, to see more number of organizations actually having “honest” hiring intentions for returnee professional women.

Enough and more organizations in the tech, pharma space have programs with fancy names – “returnee professionals program” “restart 2.0” “have them back” etc etc…. for women professionals who fell off the workforce in their 30s.

The truth is, before they actually hire someone from that category, it will make “news” in the diversity section of the company journal or a speech in some fancy women’s conference. When they do come down to hiring, not more than 1 or 2 from a room full of 50 professional women CAs / MBAs/ Engineers/ social sector grads and some with rich consulting backgrounds. It’s almost farcical to have such programs which don’t even have real traction or make a real difference to the lives of these women.

They are not asking for charity; they are super smart, all they need is an opportunity – a fair and real one. The last thing they need is being mislead into believing that they yet again lost it by a whisker.

Now that would be unfortunate!

Image source: YouTube

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Do you know a woman who has returned to work?