One of the biggest obstacles to career progression can be a career break and recent research from the ONS shows that women are much more likely than men to experience significant career interruptions in order to attend to their family’s needs. According to economists, these interruptions can undermine women’s economic and professional prospects in a variety of ways, with more than ½ of female professionals who return to work in the UK ending up in lower-skilled and lower-paid jobs, by comparison to their previous roles.
Over the past three years, a growing number of companies have launched formal schemes to help “returners” get back into the workplace. Returnships (“professional internships ”), originating from America, were introduced in the UK in 2014 by investment banks Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley and Deutsche Bank.
Returnships normally last between three and six months and focus on offering women (and men) the chance to keep their skills up to date, boost confidence and, the possibility of being hired permanently.
In the UK, the concept is strongly supported by the Prime Minister Theresa May, who has promised a £5 million initiative to support women returners into the professional world.
In fact, returning after a break can be a benefit for the hiring company. Returners can bring a fresh and new outlook, combining a high emotional intelligence with strong organisational skills. It also demonstrates genuine commitment to their diversity programme.
Vodafone’s “ReConnect” programme is the perfect proof of how this change is happening on a large scale: this initiative will be introduced in 26 countries and provide recruits the chance to return to work on a full-time or flexible basis, offering training to the new employees and opening up access to different manager and senior positions.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
Like internships, whilst there is no guarantee of full-time employment at the end of the Returnship, some schemes report a hiring rate of over 50% of returners. However, by comparison to the pool of experienced woman who leave the industry each year, the number of available positions within these programmes is still relatively low.
But as an initiative Returnships continue to gain momentum and last year, 23 schemes were available in the UK, with 90% of positions offered to women.
This is indicative of a more general shift within financial services to ensure their talent pipeline is diverse – including schemes to facilitate agile working, job shares and part time working. Indeed, diverse shortlists are now at the forefront of many organisations’ hiring strategies, with considerable emphasis placed on preventing the so-called ‘brain drain’ caused by women leaving the sector.
BRUIN has recently held several seminars on diverse hiring, focusing particularly on gender, talent management and internal progression for our clients, which alongside our monthly WiFI report that measures the recruitment and engagement of women within financial services, provides key insights into gender diversity within financial services. For more information about the WiFI Index or our gender diversity initiatives, please contact our management team.