Championing diversity and inclusion but still overlooking a powerful potential workforce?

By Jenny Turner on Friday, 8 March 2019

D&I is at the top of many agendas at present and rightly so – the business case shows that diversity increases productivity, creativity and innovation within organisations. Despite this, some employers continue to overlook a group with great potential to contribute in all three areas and more: professional women returners.

Research by PWC estimates that there are approximately 427,000 female professionals in the UK currently on a career break but actively looking to return. PWC calculates that helping these women to return to work could result in a potential boost to GDP of £1.7bn. Given these figures – why is there still such a barrier for those who have taken a career break for family reasons and now want to return?

This question will be central to a panel debate I’m joining in March for an initiative called Back2Businessship. Started by F1 Recruitment’s Amanda Fone and now in its fifth year, Back2businessship helps female returners in marketing, media and communications to re-establish their careers.

There are currently over 60 similar returner programmes in the UK, including Barclays Encore, EY Reconnect and Aviva Investors Return to Work programmes. Government too has recognised the opportunity with the introduction of its Civil Service Returners Programme.

All of them recognise the importance of flexible working arrangements supported by technology advancements to facilitate WFA (working from anywhere). They allow women who have a non- linear career path to bring a fresh and diverse perspective to businesses, building a pipeline of female talent for future leadership positions. More widely, they also help to address the gender pensions gap and overall health of the economy.

Returning myself to marketing four years ago, it’s reassuring to know that organisations are fast waking up to the fact that we represent huge untapped potential that can add real value.
Given it’s the season of International Women’s Day, we should celebrate those who already recognise the opportunity, while also encouraging those that don’t, to re-examine their Diversity and Inclusion agendas. Professional women already face enough of a challenge in building successful careers. Let’s not make career breaks another excuse for their lack of advancement.

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