For women returning to the job market after a long career break, getting back on track can seem daunting. Many are reduced to applying for graduate-level and admin work, far below their level of experience. They feel that their skills are outdated or they will have lost their touch. Others find that recruiters have a high level of bias against people who don’t have recent experience, especially in fast-changing sectors like tech.
Returnships are aimed at helping experienced professionals return to a role at mid to senior level. While they’re open to men, the majority of applicants are women who have taken a career break to raise children and who are returning to work in their late 30s or early 40s when their youngest child starts school.
There is an established culture of bias against mothers who have taken a long career break. Mothers who return to work can end up earning a third less than men. Although the fact that women tend to work less hours than their male colleagues is a large factor, women also have less chance of getting pay rises and promotions.
Despite returnships being a relatively recent arrival – they were first introduced in the UK in 2014 – they’re catching on fast and can count established names such as Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan and Allianz among their benefactors.
Highly-qualified women can find it hard to get a role again and can find themselves applying for jobs they’re overqualified for, thinking it’s their only route back in. Returnships allow women to bypass this prejudice and gain the much needed experience they need to find their way back into jobs. They allow women to rejoin the world of work at the right level, paid the right amount.
Many returning mothers are highly educated and offer a level of maturity that can boost employers at a mid/senior level. The level of bias they face is cited by Labour MP Jess Philips as a major cause of the UK’s catastrophic productivity gap which is 35% below Germany’s and 30% below that of the US.
Returnships are paid and typically last up to 6 months. They aim to brush up participants’ technology skills, boost their confidence through coaching and reacclimatise them to the corporate landscape, often with the help of a mentor. They usually result in the offer of a permanent contract at the end, although this is not guaranteed and depends on the returner’s performance.
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