One of the biggest problems facing corporations both in the United States and worldwide is closing the gender gap. One of the ways that companies are addressing the trouble of gender diversity in the work place is through programs called returnships. Returnships are aimed at mid-career level woman and men that have taken time off from work to care for their families and loved ones. A lot of these programs are easy to implement as they are generally based off of the company’s typical internship program, and connects these “returners” with a mentor that will help them update their working knowledge of the field they are reentering. There are not many companies that are offering these programs at this point, but the number is increasing every year.
After years of being a stay-at-home mother, women are finding it difficult to reenter the industry that they left. “Research has found that nearly 9 out of 10 highly qualified women who left their jobs voluntarily for an average of 2.7 years wanted to return, but only 40% were able to find full time, mainstream work.” (Zillman, 2017) Returnships offer talented women, returning to the workforce after a professional sabbatical, a position with a company that will help them add recent work experience to their résumé and freshen up on skills that have changed and developed since they left the industry. These programs are open to both men and women, but due to the fact that most caregivers are women, the companies that have instituted them are finding that it gives them a direct line to the female applicants in an era when many corporations are prioritizing gender diversity. (Zillman, 2017) These returnship programs help to bridge the résumé gap that would make many employers in a traditional setting consider a person unhireable. By instituting these programs companies find their talent pool of skilled women to hire into full time jobs has increased substantially.
There are few companies that are offering these returnship programs as part of their push to close the gender gap at this point, but the number is growing every year. Through initiatives from advocates such as the nonprofits Path Forward and Recharge, women and companies are being matched based on the skills that they have and the skills that they are looking for. Companies such as Apple, Goldman Sachs, IBM, and PayPal all have a returnship program in place. Employers that have begun using returnship programs are finding that the programs are very successful at attracting skilled women at the mid-career level, and many of them decide to expand the programs to include more people, in more of the company’s locations.
In the text book, Organizational Behavior: An Evidence-Based Approach, it states that evidence has shown that hiring and promoting more women and minorities help companies to not only have a more diversified workforce, but also more capable, talented employees. (Luthans, Luthans, and Luthans, 2015) By opening up programs like returnships in order to attract that untapped talent pool, companies are sending out a good message to not only women, but other companies in general. MJ Austin, the Executive Sponsor of Recharge and Senior Director, Product Manager is quoted by Georgene Huang as saying, “Great talent can sometimes come from unexpected places, and implementing a returnship program can help organizations tap into a new source of diverse, skilled, and highly-motivated professionals.” (Huang, 2017) Not only are returnships a great initiative to attract more mid-career level women to the workplace, but having these returnship programs in place also makes the company more inviting for younger women entering the workforce, that often worry about the idea of starting a family and taking a professional sabbatical at some future point.
Returnship programs are offering a new way for companies to close the gender gap that many people see as one of the biggest problems needing to be addressed by corporations around the world. By opening up a returnship program, a company becomes more inviting to a new talent pool of women hoping to return to a professional environment that they left in order to raise their families. These talented, skilled women often times find it hard to return to the work place as their résumé gap generally leaves them unhireable. However, when they are hired into these companies’ returnship programs that are seeking out people in their position, it not only helps them but the company that is trying to create a paradigm shift to bring more women into the workplace.
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