London, 20 November 2017 – This year’s Women Returners conference, supported by 30% Club, was hosted on Monday 20 November at Rooms on Regents Park. The sold-out event welcomed 200 women returning to work after long career breaks and was sponsored by a cross-section of leading employers: Bloomberg, EY, O2, FDM Group, the Government Equalities Office and Civil Service HR, Credit Suisse, and Fidelity International. The attendees were a high-powered group: nearly 70% had professional or postgrad qualifications and 73% had over 10 years of work experience.
A survey of Women Returners Professional Network members conducted ahead of the conference revealed that 75% of respondents would choose a returner programme to get them back to work, valuing the structured support and transition period provided.
Busting the myth that returners need to always work part-time, 44% of respondents reported that they were looking for a full-time job and only 17% said that part-time working was essential. Instead, it was broader flexibility that they were looking for, such as options for home-working or shifted hours, as well as an understanding about family commitments: 87% said that some form of flexible working is important.
Julianne Miles, Co-Founder and MD, commented on the findings: “We need to set aside the stereotype that all women returners are mothers with small children looking for part-time work. People take career breaks at different life stages for a variety of reasons and are often coming back to work with a resurgence of motivation and the ambition to pick up their careers where they left off.”
Of those polled, more than 60% cited their top reason for returning to work as related to personal fulfilment, satisfaction or professional identity. Only 21% were motivated primarily by financial need.
Julianne Miles said: “A major motivation for our network in going back to work is to regain their working identity. When a woman leaves the work environment for a long period, particularly for parental or caring break, they can lose a sense of ‘self’. Regaining this identity and the fulfilment from achieving at work can be incredibly energising.”
Returnships and returner programmes have become increasingly popular with leading organisations in the last two years as companies now recognise the value of bringing skilled and experienced employees back into the work place. The returnship market has grown from three programmes in 2014 to nearly 40 programmes this year.
Julianne Miles commented: “The business argument for getting professional women back into employment is undeniable. These women are highly skilled and experienced. Our network members often have 10-20 years of work experience and still struggle to get back into suitable-level jobs through traditional recruitment channels. Returners bring a wealth of knowledge and a fresh perspective to an organisation. Ignoring a substantial talent pool such as this is damaging to UK business and the economy.”
Over a third of respondents to the Women Returners survey (36%) expected to return to work at a more junior level than before, however. Women may undersell themselves at interview or do not negotiate joining salary – ultimately contributing to a lack of women in senior management and to the gender pay gap.
The annual Women Returners Conference is targeted at women with a professional/managerial background who have taken an extended career break and who now want to get back into the workforce using their professional skills and experience.
The day featured panel sessions from conference sponsors and other employers on why they are targeting returner hires, as well as from returners explaining how they personally got back into the workforce. There were also practical sessions on developing career direction, boosting confidence and writing CVs, together with the opportunity for returners to network with each other and the sponsoring organisations.
Avril Martindale, a member of the 30% Club Steering Committee and Partner at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer law firm, provided the keynote speech.
Avril Martindale said: “At the 30% Club we see returner programmes as a key means of refilling the female talent pipeline to senior levels in organisations. We are encouraged by the increasing focus that corporates are putting on accessing this neglected talent pool, demonstrated by the rapid growth of returnships and the popularity of the Women Returners Conference among both returners and employers.”
About Women Returners
Women Returners is the leading champion of getting women back into work after an extended break. The Women Returners Professional Network was founded in 2012 to develop a large-scale support system and community for individual returners. Women Returners for Employers was developed in 2014 to create a structural change in corporate career paths through partnering with employers to build supported routes back to corporate careers. Women Returners has pioneered the concept of returnships and returner programmes in the UK and Ireland.
Women Returners seeks to provide women with the know-how and professional self-confidence to get back into the working world, whilst at the same time working with employers to develop returner programmes to tap into this experienced and skilful talent pool. They also act as a voice and an advocate for returners in the media and Government forums.
Georgina Whittle, Yellow Jersey PR