Open Your Doors to Working Moms Who’ve Taken a Career Break — It Will Give You a Competitive Edge

March 2, 2020

This coming Sunday marks International Women’s Day, an important time for us to celebrate working mothers everywhere. As a working mom myself, I’m happy that LinkedIn is using the occasion to shine a light on the experiences faced by women returning to work after taking a career break. 

Becoming a parent changes your life — believe me, it transformed mine completely and unimaginably — and the transition from employee to mother to working mother can be a significant and sometimes challenging shift. In fact, our research shows that more than half (63%) of hiring managers recognize there are unnecessary obstacles that make it difficult for mothers to advance in their careers.

Smart organizations are beginning to invest seriously in better supporting mothers who are looking to re-enter the workforce after a career break. So, we’ve used exclusive LinkedIn survey data to inform tips and advice that will help you tap into this overlooked talent pool. 

Returning moms have a depth of professional and life experience that can make them ideal employees — and prospective leaders

Today, there are talent shortages in industries around the world, and more employers than ever are struggling to fill open jobs. 

While these organizations are struggling to find talent, many mothers looking to return to the workforce have the necessary skills they need. In fact, our data revealed that hiring managers understand that the skills — a strong work ethic (49% of hiring managers cited this as a reason they’d hire a mom who had taken a career break), time management (37%), and patience (30%) — you develop as a mother offer major advantages in the workplace.

To stay competitive, recruiters and hiring managers must expand their recruitment strategies and consider hiring from this largely untapped talent pool (according to a 2013 estimate by iRelaunch, a firm that helps women return to the workforce, there were 2.2 million college-educated women in the U.S. alone hoping to do just that). 

Tweak your hiring process to make it more inviting to returning women

Some 58% of hiring managers surveyed believe that, when interviewing for a job, mothers should discuss their career breaks and use the opportunity to highlight the value of the time off and the relevant transferable skills they’ve gained during those breaks. Nonetheless, our research also found that more than half (52%) of women still feel they will be dismissed if they have a career gap on their resume. 

To help combat this stigma, hiring managers need to take a more intentional approach to interviews and hiring. Interviews should provide a forum for mothers looking to re-enter the workforce to openly share the value of taking their career break and how it makes them a more competitive candidate. Organizations should also identify and correct any biases that may exist in their job postings that could be influencing their pipeline as well as how they view candidates with career breaks in their resume.

Offer work flexibility and supportive policies and benefits to attract women coming back from a break

Simple steps can make all the difference. Our research found that working parents believe the most important things their organizations are doing to foster a more inclusive workplace for working mothers are allowing employees to have a more flexible schedule (67%) and offering supportive parental policies and benefits (45%). 

As a working mom who’s in charge of diversity and inclusion at LinkedIn and who has a young son, I have experienced many crystal and rubber moments when that very kind of flexibility has been crucial. Crystal moments occur when I have to shift work schedules to prioritize my family by attending birthdays and graduations and addressing health-related issues; rubber moments occur when I move something such as a baseball game or movie night around to make room for critical work. The flexibility makes spending quality time with my family possible.

Employers can take their cue from this data to explore ways to better support working mothers — whether that’s allowing work-from-home days, later start times to accommodate childcare/school drop-off or flexibility throughout the day should kids need to go to the doctor or to an appointment. 

While our research gives us a view into the barriers mothers face when returning to work after a career break, it also reveals that organizations are eager to recruit working mothers and to provide a culture that supports them. On International Women’s Day,  join us in celebrating the mothers balancing families and careers and the organizations that are helping them do so. You can recognize a working mother who has had an impact on you with LinkedIn’s IWD "Kudos” and the hashtags #IWD2020 and #InItTogether.

METHODOLOGY: This analysis was conducted after a Censuswide survey fielded from February 13 to 20, 2020, among 3,000 working parents ages 18 to 54 and 1,000 hiring managers across the United States.

*Photo by Sai De Silva on Unsplash

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