Why Returnships are Just as Important As Internships to Promote Gender Equity

Branded the cousin of the internship, “returnships” are becoming an it-factor in helping women come back to work after a career break, spanning even a decade or more. It’s not news that a majority of women take career breaks more so men and are often at a disadvantage when it comes to finding work again. Not only do they feel that they have missed out on certain skills, but the demand of today is not the same when they first started out their career. Here’s where returnships are swooping in to save the day. Returnship programs differ from company to company, but returners are usually paid a certain amount while receiving training and mentorships which spans several weeks and or months. At the end of it all, the company decides whether or not to hire the person in question, just like an internship. Tragically, career breaks have been known to really break careers of women all while reducing their earning potential and career prospects too. Consultancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed in 2016 that Three-fifths of professional women have a high probability of ending up in a lower-skilled and a lower-paid job, according to their research.

Many women want to come back to work because they miss working, not always due to financial problems

In 2008, Harvard Business Review stated that more than half, that is 56 percent of women science, engineering, and technology leave their jobs in the midpoint of their career. This means that more than half of the talent is being lost in these sectors. Moreover, out of that 56 percent, about a quarter of those women take up a non-technical job at a different company, 22 percent become self-employed in a technical job and 10 percent leave the workforce completely. Childbirth and childcare experience a huge influence on whether women continue to work or not and there’s a definite change in their career trajectory if they decide to return to work. Today a majority of women wanting to return to the workplace are choosing to do so not because they are in dire need of finances, but because they miss working and they want to prove this fact not only to themselves but o their families too. Forman adds, “[Mothers] face a lot of bias in the workforce in ways we don’t always recognize. They see [a returner] is doing amazing work, which can actually help to puncture some of those stereotypes.”

Many recruiters are absolutely blown away with their returnship candidates

Returnships are often described as internships which taken many notches higher since the people already have many years of expertise under their belt. Many of these are intended to bring women to senior roles rather than started from the bottom up again. Irish native Andrea Crofts on her returnship with Mastercard said, “Initially, I was apprehensive about returning to work in the IT sector but, since I’ve started my placement at Mastercard, I’ve found that a lot of my IT skills are still relevant. I took part in the Women ReBOOT program, which really refreshed my existing experience. The collaborative work environment at Mastercard has also greatly helped.” What surprises most companies is that that a majority of returners have very impressive resumes, with 10 years or more of work experience. Many recruiters are absolutely blown away with their returnship candidates. What makes such a program different is that it deviates from corporate social responsibility and community schemes because it’s not about assisting the disadvantaged but providing a stepping stone to those who already have immense talent and skills. 

Companies bemoan the lack of gender balance yet fail to put the structural foundations in place 

One of the reasons why returnships work is because the wider focus is to instill gender equity in the workplace, along with promoting flexibility at work, which is the future. The chase for a work-life balance is only increasing every year and ensuring that employees can fit work and family in their life is the epitome of their life’s satisfaction. WorkJuggle, a platform that connects companies that offer flexible working directly with highly skilled candidates says, “The offer of flexible work as an intrinsic part of a returnship program demonstrates a company which is serious about gender balance. All too often, companies bemoan the lack of gender balance yet fail to put the structural foundations in place which enable people with families and caring responsibilities to thrive.” Returners also help in bridging the gender pay gap and the gender gap, since 90 percent of people taking career breaks for personal reasons are women. However, the most important factor for returnship programs to succeed is the support of the company and its leaders. 

Image credit: Runneth London

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