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.
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