The impacts of going back to work on women

The impact of going back to work on women can vary depending on factors such as cultural context, workplace policies, individual choices and social norms.

Historically, women going back to work have faced unique challenges and considerations after taking time off, particularly due to caregiving responsibilities and gender-related biases. The dynamics of the workforce have undergone significant transformations, with one notable trend being the increasing number of women reentering the job market after taking breaks from their careers. This common shift is driven by a multitude of factors.  This includes evolving gender roles, improved workplace policies and changing economic realities. The decision for women to return to work after a break, whether it be due to caregiving responsibilities, personal pursuits or other reasons, holds profound implications. Not only for the individuals themselves but also for families, businesses, and the broader economy

Here’s a few ways in which going back to work can impact women:

Work-life balance

Many women juggle multiple responsibilities, including work, childcare and household management. Returning to work can increase the complexity of managing these responsibilities. This can potentially lead to increased stress and challenges in maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

Childcare and caregiving

The availability, affordability and quality of childcare options can greatly affect women’s ability to return to work. Women going back to work might face difficulties in finding suitable care for their children. Which can impact their career choices and decisions.

Career progression

Extended breaks from the workforce, such as maternity leave or caregiving responsibilities, can sometimes lead to a loss of momentum in terms of career advancement. Women going back to work may find it harder to re-enter the workforce at the same level or in the same roles they left. This has an impact on their long-term career progression.

Wage gap and economic impact

Women, on average, still earn less than men in many industries. Taking time off from work and potentially returning at a lower level can perpetuate the wage gap, leading to long-term economic disadvantages.

Gender bias and stereotypes

Women going back to work after a break might encounter biases or stereotypes related to their caregiving roles. This can affect their opportunities for advancement and how they are perceived in the workplace.

Flexible work arrangements

Some women might seek flexible work arrangements to better balance their responsibilities. However, such arrangements might not always be available or may be stigmatised, potentially affecting career growth.

Networking

Extended time away from the workforce can lead to a lack of networking opportunities. Women returning to work may need to invest extra effort in rebuilding their professional networks and updating their skills.

Mental and emotional challenges

Re-entering the workforce after a break can be emotionally challenging. Due to feelings of insecurity, imposter syndrome and stress related to adjusting to a new routine.

Supportive policies

Organisations with supportive policies like parental leave, flexible work options and on-site childcare can greatly ease the transition back to work for women. Companies that prioritise these policies tend to retain and attract female talent more effectively.

Personal fulfilment and empowerment

On a positive note, many women find a sense of personal fulfilment, empowerment and intellectual stimulation upon returning to work. It can provide a renewed sense of identity and purpose outside of caregiving roles.

There are many ways organisations can help women come back to work.

Here’s a few ways to  facilitate their return to the workforce:

Flexible work arrangements: Offer flexible work options, such as remote work, part-time positions or flexible hours.  This can make it easier for women to balance their work and personal commitments.

Mentorship and coaching: Providing mentors or coaches who can guide returning women employees through their reintegration process can help them navigate challenges and build confidence.

Skill development: Offering access to training, workshops and upskilling opportunities can help women update their skills and stay relevant in their field.

Networking opportunities: Organise events or platforms where returning women can network with professionals in their industry, helping them stay connected and informed about job opportunities.

Childcare support: Offering on-site or subsidised childcare services can significantly reduce the childcare-related challenges that women often face when returning to work.

Remote work infrastructure: Ensure that your company has the necessary technology and policies in place to support remote work, as this can be particularly helpful for women managing family commitments.

Transitional job roles: Creating transitional positions or projects can help women ease back into the workforce while gradually regaining their skills and confidence.

Supportive company culture: Foster an inclusive and supportive workplace culture that values diversity and understands the unique challenges that returning women may face.

Re-entry programs: Develop programs that help women reacclimate to the workplace, providing them with resources, guidance and opportunities to connect with colleagues.

CV workshops: Offer workshops to help women update their CV, prepare for interviews and effectively communicate their skills and experiences.

Partnering with organisations: Collaborate with organisations that specialise in women’s career re-entry, such as women’s advocacy groups or career development organisations.

Transparent communication: Clearly communicate company policies, benefits and opportunities to returning women to ensure they are aware of the available resources.

Career path planning: Work with returning women to create personalised career development plans, helping them set goals and map out their path within the organisation.

Employee assistance programs (EAPs): Provide access to EAPs that offer counselling and support services to address personal and work-related challenges.

Remote working: If necessary, develop remote onboarding processes that cater to women returning to work from a distance.

Recognition of transferable skills: Acknowledge the value of skills gained during the career break.  Such as project management, problem-solving and organisational abilities.  They can also add these skills to their CV.

Diverse leadership and role models: Showcase women in leadership positions and offer role models to inspire and motivate returning women.

Supporting and facilitating women’s successful return to work is crucial for promoting gender equality, economic growth and overall societal progress. Not one plan works for everyone.  It’s important to approach their return to work with sensitivity. By addressing the multifaceted challenges they often face, such as caregiving responsibilities and workplace biases, we can create environments that empower women to resume their careers with confidence.

When women can seamlessly transition back into the workforce, they not only contribute to their families’ financial stability but also enrich the labour market with diverse perspectives and skills. It’s imperative that businesses, governments and communities collaborate to implement supportive policies, flexible work arrangements and comprehensive childcare solutions. By doing so, we can pave the way for a more inclusive and prosperous future. Where women are empowered to thrive professionally and personally.


If you’re going back to work and need further support, read below.

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