Although many corporate organisations now have an equal gender split at entry level, there is a sharp reduction in female participation at higher management levels (see research). The business case for gender diversity has been proven; now companies are looking for practical steps to improve the reality.
One reason for the leaky pipeline is that many women step out of the workforce at middle or senior manager level, primarily (but not solely) for child or eldercare reasons. The majority intend to return to work when their caring demands reduce, yet these highly-talented returners find the route back into a senior position, with diminished confidence and a CV gap, difficult. As a result many decide to join smaller local companies, to develop their own business ventures or to focus on voluntary activities. This creates a ‘brain drain’ of senior women from the corporate world that has not yet been addressed.
Targeted return-to-work programmes offer a practical solution to attract this group of highly-qualified, experienced and motivated professionals who offer maturity and stability. They can broaden the female talent pipeline at senior levels and reinforce organisational commitment to diversity and non-linear career paths.
In particular, structured ‘returnships’ are an innovative way of bridging the gap and offer an effective transition for both employing organisation and individual. They provide employers with the opportunity to assess participants’ abilities and results before offering permanent roles as well as offering a supportive re-integration into corporate life for the returning women.
“The reason is simple. We are always looking for great talent, top talent wherever we can find it.” Peg Sullivan, Global Head of Talent Management at Morgan Stanley talking about the launch of their NY re-entry programme, New York Times, March 2014
“The project is an opportunity for us to get to know this talent pool, and for the women it is an opportunity to assess whether they’d like to come back on a full-time basis.” Kirsty How, EMEA Head of IB Recruitment at Credit Suisse, Timewise August 2014
“Many companies are waking up to the incredible amount of untapped talent that has left.” Gordon Cooper, J.P. Morgan Asset Management Head of Diversity discussing the launch of their Legal ReEntry programme, HBR Blog, Feb 2014