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Diversity and Inclusion

Return to work programs for moms

Women and mothers have disproportionately left the workforce over the pandemic. This has given rise to the popularity of return-to-work programs for mothers. Here are 5 examples of returnships, as they're being called, and how you can start your own.

Meryl D'Sa-Wilson

April 11, 2022

More than 70% of mothers are a part of the US workforce. But juggling between career advancement and familial responsibilities, working women either end up heavily burnt out or taking long breaks from their jobs. This can set them back.

During the height of the pandemic, more women than men left the workforce. And as the world returns to normal, we need to evaluate what we are doing as organizations to help moms who want to come back to work.

Let’s talk about return-to-work programs for moms.

Reentering the workforce is challenging especially for moms

From motherhood to caregiving, there are many reasons why women – especially mothers – step out of the workforce. One of the most common is balancing a career with family. 

It is no surprising fact that maternity leaves heavily impact women’s careers. Women take between two weeks to two years to return to work after giving birth or adopting. And for those who returned, at least 44% say the hardest part was juggling parental duties with work.

The top 3 fears for mothers reentering the workforce include a lack of skills, not being able to manage the responsibilities, and being viewed as less capable
Source: Nearly half of mothers work, take a break, and work again. Why is there still such a stigma?

While the COVID-19 pandemic added further strain and stress to working parents, women and moms suffered more. They found themselves becoming (in some cases, full-time) teachers, cooks, office managers, cleaners, caregivers, and more. In fact, in the past year, one in three women considered leaving the workforce or downshifting their career to compensate for growing burdens on themselves and their families.

This is why organizations and managers must actively work towards supporting working women and making it easier for them to enter the workforce or return to it. When your organization invests in such DEI programs, you build a happier and more satisfying work environment that sets your employees up for success. And being a diverse workplace that cares for employee growth will also help you attract and retain top talent.

One way to bring more working moms to your business is through returnship programs.

What is a returnship?

As remote and flex work continue to rise, employers understand that not everyone follows a traditional career path or work environment. This is where they use returnship programs or offer tuition support to give employees more opportunities for success.

Returnships are return-to-work programs; they are internships for people reentering the workforce. In a returnship program, individuals returning to the workforce are paired with mentors or guides and provided with training and opportunities to grow their skill set. It’s a way of gradually reintroducing them to a new role.

How long does a returnship late?

Such return-to-work programs last 12-26 weeks and are typically paid opportunities. These employees are often hired by the company when they complete their course. These programs help adults reentering the workforce to update their resumes with new skills and confidence.

Who is a returnship for?

People who might be interested in a returnship include veterans, parents, people coming out of retirement, and so on. Instead of starting at the bottom of the ladder after some time off, these people can jump back into the workforce, learn necessary skills, and come up to speed. Additionally, since these individuals already have significant experience and work history, your business is not training from the bottom either. 

This means you have an opportunity to support parents who want to come back to the workforce. More specifically, you can use returnships to build return-to-work programs for moms. Businesses committed to diversity and inclusion will find that returnships are a great way to strengthen company culture.

What are the benefits of return to work programs for moms?

What seals the deal with returnship programs is that they benefit both the new employees and the organization. Moms returning to the workforce can

  • Get caught up on changes and expectations
  • Learn new skills and technology
  • Discover what they like and how they want to advance their career
  • Transition into a full-time role
  • Gain access to a new support network

For your part, you get to create a more diverse workforce, support underrepresented communities, attract skilled and driven talent, and demonstrate how your organization cares for its employees.

Examples of returnships programs for moms 

Here are a few different ways to set up a return-to-work program for moms that encourages diversity and inclusion.

Employee resource groups (ERGs)

ERGs connect employees with similar backgrounds and identities in an effort to build supportive communities at work. Use ERGs to build communities for working moms and other underrepresented groups. You can pair up members of the same or different ERGs. As they work together and share perspectives and experiences, they can strengthen each other’s career development opportunities and provide support.

Mentorship programs

Most employees learn best by observing others and asking questions. So, use your return-to-work programs for moms as a platform to pair new employees with senior mentors who can help reacquaint them in the field. Mentoring not only boosts confidence, skills, and morale for mentees, but also provides them with a role model to look up to. And you can expose your leaders (mentors) to new perspectives and challenges they may not otherwise consider.

Peer learning

Another type of mentorship involves matching peers in similar stages of career development. Peers offer each other support, advice, resolutions, and more. And through peer mentorship programs, you can create a positive and constructive atmosphere for moms returning to the workforce. This sets the stage for learning, upskilling, and growing within your organization.

Company reskilling and upskilling programs

These return-to-work programs for moms help them learn essential skills, ensuring they are up to date with what is expected in their field. But you don’t have to stop there. Career advancement is crucial for employee engagement and satisfaction. Many who want to return to work are looking to grow their careers without starting from square one. You can use the opportunity of your returnship programs to teach new skills which can help them move up in their field. 

Job shadowing events

Job shadowing allows new employees to work closely with another employee. They spend a few hours or days together, observing and understanding the role. You can include job shadowing events within your returnship program to let new hires gain first-hand experience. They can ask questions, perform practical tasks, and prepare for their roles more effectively.

Start your returnship program by connecting moms with mentors

So, how can you create a return-to-work program for moms at your organization? Start with building out mentorship and community-building programs. 

Mentorship is a great way to support people – especially moms – returning to the workforce. Create a mentorship program by pairing back-to-work moms with a senior employee or with another peer. Then, provide mentor training, so mentors understand their role in the program and how to make it successful.

Use mentoring software, like Together’s, to match mentors and mentees together, set actions and goals, track progress, and collect feedback – all managed through one platform. If you’re ready to build a mentorship program for your organization, connect with us at Together and find out how we can help.

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