Parenting

'Returnships' Offer Stay-At-Home Moms a Chance at Work Again

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Many women find it difficult to enter the workforce after taking time off to raise their children. Anyone who has tried can tell you that a gap on a resume can feel like an insurmountable hurdle. But luckily, as more companies are including “returnships” in their diversification strategies, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Moms returning to work, especially those who had prior careers in STEM (Science Technology Engineering Math) industries, often find that there had been countless technology transformations while they were home with their children. Their lack of experience with updated technology can act as a barrier to re-entry.

NBC News reports:

When former stay-at-home mom Lori Hill decided to return to work after 22 years, she knew it would be a challenge. But she wasn’t prepared for just how hard it would be. On job interviews, most of the hiring managers she found herself sitting across from were men half her age.

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In Hill’s case, the technical skill set required in her industry had transformed greatly from when she left in 1993, but she knew her aptitude hadn’t changed. She took courses at a local college to learn mobile app development and picked up freelance projects to apply her skills. But working alone kept her out of the loop on the industry’s ever-changing lingo, which made interviews challenging.

Needing to brush up on various skills, however, is a very manageable problem to tackle, especially when the aptitude, experience, and drive of the women returning to a career have not waned. Once those skills are relearned, the job-seeker should see the playing field even out.

More companies (about 30 to date) are recognizing that women returning to work are assets and they’re taking steps to capture that group as they seek jobs after time off.

In 2016, IBM launched a 12-week reentry program that helped the company source 17 interns, according to IBM executive Jennifer Howland, who oversees the program. Like Hill, many were women who had been out of the workforce for up to 20 years.

Howland sees that as an asset: “They’re not out trying to find themselves like you might find with a university student who’s in their late teens and early 20s. They know what they want to do.”

According to Howland, returnees have fewer job relocations because many already own a home, are less likely to go on maternity leave or have special childcare needs and have years of professional experience. She says they are typically enthusiastic about getting back to work.

Typically, most of the people who enter these returnships end up being placed in a full-time position within the company. Haritha Choudray, who participated in a returnship with IBM, didn’t find the need to look anywhere else during her job search.

“The realization that my engineer brain was still functioning along with my mommy brain was such a relief for me,” says Choudhary, who is now a full-time employee with the company in Westchester, New York.