Happy Re­turns? Ex­plor­ing “returnships” as a way for moms to suc­cess­fully jump back into the work­force.

More com­pa­nies are of­fer­ing returnships for moms who want to re­join the work­force full-time. Work­ing Mother in­ves­ti­gates whether tak­ing one leads to a re­ward­ing ca­reer, earn­ing what you’re worth.

Working Mother - - Contents - by stephanie emma pf­ef­fer il­lus­tra­tion by chris gash

TTr­isha Almeida had been work­ing at an in­for­ma­tion-sys­tems com­pany for nine years when she quit af­ter her ma­ter­nity leave ran out. “I wanted to give my son, Ai­dan, my un­di­vided at­ten­tion,” says the San Fran­cisco mom, who gave birth in 2012. By the time Ai­dan was 4, Tr­isha was ready to lean back in. She started net­work­ing and post­ing her re­sume on job sites with lit­tle suc­cess. “I got a lot of calls over six months, but once they re­al­ized I’d been on a break, it wouldn’t go fur­ther,” she says. “I never ex­pected peo­ple to think twice about hir­ing some­one with my many years of ex­pe­ri­ence.”

Tr­isha’s trou­ble get­ting hired af­ter be­ing a stay-at-home mom doesn’t sur­prise Tami For­man, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Path For­ward, a non­profit founded in 2016 that has cre­ated tem­po­rary po­si­tions in 35 com­pa­nies for women who’ve been out of the work­force. “Man­agers are ret­i­cent to make a hir­ing de­ci­sion that could back­fire. When they’re look­ing at two re­sumes, and one has a gap and one doesn’t, the one with­out the gap feels like the safer bet.” Add to that the mostly un­founded fear that re­turn­ing women don’t want to be away from home and work­ing again, and few hir­ing man­agers are will­ing to take the chance.

But Apres, another or­ga­ni­za­tion that con­nects women who’ve been out of the work­force with jobs, es­ti­mates that 3 mil­lion women with ad­vanced de­grees are try­ing to re-en­ter. And com­pa­nies are start­ing to pay more at­ten­tion to this tal­ent pool. From fi­nan­cial-ser­vices firms to tech star­tups, cor­po­ra­tions are cre­at­ing their own ca­reer re-en­try pro­grams or en­list­ing the help of third-party busi­nesses like Apres and Path For­ward to re­cruit and train po­ten­tial hires while eas­ing the tran­si­tion of go­ing back to work. But are they work­ing?

So what the heck is a re­turn­ship?

Mi­dlevel ca­reer in­tern­ships, or “returnships,” are nine-week- to six­month-long “test drives,” says Ad­die Swartz, CEO of ReacHIRE, which pro­vides women with pro­grams that help with skill re­tool­ing and find­ing jobs. Dur­ing that time, a com­pany eval­u­ates a can­di­date, teaches rel­e­vant skills, and even­tu­ally de­cides whether it will of­fer the can­di­date a per­ma­nent job. “It’s also an op­por­tu­nity for the in­di­vid­ual to see if they like the cul­ture, fit and pace of the com­pany,” Swartz adds. Open to women and men who have taken time off for var­i­ous rea­sons— from el­der­care to med­i­cal leave—the pro­grams at­tract mostly women who have off-ramped for chil­drea­r­ing.

In­terns of­ten start on the same date and go through the pro­gram to­gether at­tend­ing train­ing ses­sions, pan­els and

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