Over a third of highly qualified women take an extended break from their careers in order to raise children.
Such a move is always a difficult decision, but for women working in financial services the stakes are extremely high.
Off-Ramping is Most Costly for Women in Finance
Women in financial services face a particularly hard road back to work. According to a report released by the Center for Work-Life Policy, women in banking and finance, “lose 28% of their earning power when they off-ramp — even though in these sectors women typically off-ramp for less time than the average off-ramper.”
On average, women executives who off-ramp take a break of approximately 2.2 years, whereas women in banking and financial services take an average 1.5 years off.
Though 93% of women who off-ramp are committed to returning back to work, only 67% of women who worked in financial services succeed in on-ramping. The vast majority do not return to the company they left.
Back-to-Work Programs Help Women On-Ramp
In response to the specific challenges facing women in financial services, some companies have created programs to help women return to work after an extended absence. One such company is Goldman Sachs, which started its Returnship® program in the fall of 2008.
A small group of 12 accomplished women with an average of six years away from work are accepted into Goldman’s program, which is a ten-week “internship,” according to the firm. Returnees work on projects, experience Goldman’s corporate culture, and attend networking opportunities with senior members of the firm.
Goldman Sachs’ website states:
“The Returnship program provides on-ramping individuals with an opportunity to sharpen their skills in a work environment that may have changed significantly since their last experience as an employee. Despite the down economy, Goldman Sachs was able to hire 50% of past program participants for positions in various divisions of the firm.”
Similar programs have been established by Bank of America and TD Bank Financial Group. In partnership with University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, TD Bank Financial Group sponsors the Back to Work initiative, a ten day program designed to help women build the skills necessary to re-enter the workforce.
That program, though short, aims to equip women with practical insights for being successful in the job market, teaching them ways to update their business and communication skills, and providing a supportive and collaborative network of fellow on-rampers.
Don’t Wait to Plan Your On-Ramp Strategy
Taking time off to start a family requires more thought than simply deciding how to announce your leave. Creating a strategy to return back to work should start the moment you begin looking to off-ramp. Whether you’ll stay connected with your company, how you’ll maintain your business relationships, and how you’ll keep abreast of changes within your company and your industry are all issues that need to be considered before you take a leave of absence.
Strategizing methods to tackle these challenges early will help ensure your doors stay open.
As companies look to attract and retain women employees, creating programs to help on-rampers return to work is a great place to start. In order to have more women advance to senior positions, retaining and re-engaging women looking to on-ramp is crucial.
Companies must develop ways to bring their female workers back on board and up to speed. After all, a career hiatus taken by an accomplished worker with decades of employment still ahead of her should never spell the end of her career advancement nor dampen her ambition.
Have you taken time off work to raise children? What challenges did you experience when you re-entered the workforce?