How are we encouraging intelligent, middle aged women to reenter the workforce?
In my office there has been a lot of talk about employee recruitment and retention lately. Something that I have personal experience with is trying to gain employment when there is a 10+ year gap in work history due to staying home to raise children. Women who do this are some of the brightest, most caring, hardworking, and loyal people I know. Sounds like what I might look for in an employee. So how can we get employers to look beyond the empty traditional resume and application to the incredible person entering a new phase of life?
During my years as a stay-at-home mom, I learned more about leadership and problem solving than anywhere I have worked outside the home. I also assisted the startup of a lawn and land maintenance business and ran an independent distributorship of healthcare products. I learned to network like a champ through these experiences, as well as through learning to setup successful playdates! The constant multitasking and scheduling involved in running a six-person household is impressive. Women like me have to rely on these networking skills to even get an employer to notice what she might offer because rarely will an empty work history get a second glance. (I originally met the person I currently work for at a local restaurant bar where we were both on date nights with our husbands.)
In my mid-twenties I moved to a different part of the country where I knew no one who could give me a referral yet I got at least one interview with every resume I submitted. Apparently, on paper, I had work experience, skills, and an education that warranted another look. Fast forward 20-ish years, after staying home for 10 years with my children, I sent resumes out to at least a dozen businesses. Most of those resumes were accompanied by a personal referral from someone who knew a leader at the hiring company. I got 1 informal phone interview … that’s it! Yes, there would be a learning curve with all the technology changes that have taken place in the last fifteen years; and, yes, I would be looking for flexibility to continue to be available to my children because I am still a mom. However, this 45-year-old woman can offer SO much more that contributes to the success of businesses in today’s world than my 25-year-old self, with all the opportunities, could offer.
How are you making accommodations for women (or men) who have stayed at home with children for a number of years? What makes you hesitant about interviewing or hiring them? What if you recruited this demographic specifically? More than likely you will find more than you had hoped for. The experience and dedication that it takes to run a household well and raise children should be the most sought after qualifications when searching for candidates. Consider what questions you could ask to find the true life experience that correlates to the leadership you want for your company.