This is the second part of a four-part series written for Lift IOWA on how to re-enter the workforce. You can read the first installment here

To quote Patrick Lencioni, best-selling author ("The Advantage," "The Five Dysfunctions of a Team," "Death by Meeting," etc.)  the best ideas are often the simplest, to the point where they sometimes seem too easy.


Matching high-talent women looking for great jobs with businesses who are crying out for this talent seems like one of these "too easy" ideas. After last week's post, I received the following email:


"Thank you for writing your glass wall article. I have felt like I was the only one experiencing this torturing experience! ...The last seven months have been long! I have a master's degree and over 20 years of insurance experience! No one wants to look at that part of the equation."


I don't know how long her gap is, but is it really so wide that it effectively wipes out the master's degree and 20 years of experience?  Will the business be "disadvantaged" if it hires her because of her time out of the workforce? Or is there an argument to be made that hiring these women and offering more flexibility for workers will actually benefit both the women and the business?


Here are some benefits for businesses:

  • It reduces turnover costs. Turnover is expensive. Research shows, too, that women who leave the workforce and return later rarely return to their original employer. Figuring out how to retain this talent, or to recapture it down the road, is a great way for businesses to reduce or recapture turnover costs.
  • Flexibility is an advantage in recruiting. Women who want/need to step out at some point often consider this when making their decision. In comparing two positions, other things being equal, the one that has more flexibility in terms of leave, scheduling and work assignments will usually win. Women will sometimes take less pay in order to have the flexibility they need. Furthermore, companies that offer the least flexibility are the ones that lose high-talent women.
  • High-talent women contribute directly to an improved bottom line.That's not just true for the highest-level positions either.  A recent study  by the human resources consulting firm DDI found that "in the companies that have the top 20 percent of financial performance, 27 percent of leaders are women. Among the bottom 20 percent of financial performers, only 19 percent of leaders are women."

Benefits of a flexible workplace for women:

  • It's easier to return.  Providing a more flexible environment to retain high-talent women, creating ways to keep them engaged while they are out, or modifying the hiring process to make re-entry less "traditional" and rigid are all ways to make it easier for women to return.
  • Lifetime earnings don't take such a hit. Taking a break affects women's lifetime earnings, but making re-entry easier means that women aren't unemployed as long once they try to get back in.
  • It keeps skills current or helps update skills. If women can remain engaged while outside the workforce, or if there is some type of "returnship" program to help smooth the way, their skills remain relevant and current.

Next week: How-tos of re-entry


Jean Baker has taken the "scenic route" in her career, having practiced law, run a nonprofit and served as a financial representative before starting her consulting business, Jean M. Baker & Associates. Running through it all has been the common thread of women's advocacy and business. 



Find Jean on her website, where you can read more of her blogs, via e-mail, or on Facebook and Twitter. She can also be reached by phone at 515-778-0017.