Internships for adults or “returnships” can solve gender imbalances at work

May 30, 2022 | Articles

Source: Fast Company
Author: Arielle Tiangco

It’s no secret that the events of the past couple of years interrupted many people’s professional journeys—however one group, in particular, has been hit especially hard: women, namely mothers, in the workforce.

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, it was difficult for mothers who’ve decided to take a multi-year career break to be with their children to explain and market that gap when the time came to finally jump back into the job market. After a 10-year career break, one mother, Rachael Grieve, felt burdened by the hole in her resumé, which left her with very few opportunities. “I still remember that desperation and fear, especially after interviews that destroy your confidence… which was humiliating at the same time. You find yourself stuck as to where to go,” she shares.

However, Grieve’s previous employer, financial services group Nomura is finding a way to address the many individuals who find themselves in this position and help them find a way into the competitive job market once again.

The company set up its Returners Program in 2019. It’s a program that offers 12 weeks of induction, training, and coaching, and is open to those who’ve taken a career break of 18 months or more. Upon completion, the candidates can apply for positions within the company. So far, the program has been a great success, with nine out of 10 returners who’ve completed the program now working with Nomura full time.

The initiative plays a significant role in Nomura’s plan to increase female representation in a historically male-dominated sector. According to a statement on its website, it has reached 31 percent female representation against a goal of 33 percent, with 14 percent of those working at a senior level, compared with a goal of 19 percent.

Return programs like Nomura’s could be a viable solution to balance out the disproportionate exodus of women from the workforce during the pandemic, as women more often became the default parent when schools and daycares were forced to close. A weaker female presence in the workforce also worsens the gender pay gap, which in the US is at about 15 percent.

Grieve, who’s now Nomura’s global head of learning and development for technology, admits that addressing the issue of gender equality is far from easy. However, return programs such as the one she went through (or “returnships” as the Harvard Business Review describes them) are proving to be one of the best solutions.

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