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Will the great resignation rewrite the professional stigma of returning women?

Jhe challenges of living and working during a global pandemic are now well documented. We have a keen sense of how the future has been pulled forward at a pace that has shattered decades of social and cultural expectations. Perhaps the biggest, and most surprising, area of ​​disruption has been the workforce. When the world of work fundamentally changed, building a career became capricious.

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, in December 2021, for the sixth consecutive month, more than 4 million Americans left their jobs. Call it the big quit or the reshuffle, the shift in the labor market is happening at a pace no one imagined just two years ago, and it’s creating a centrifugal moment in economic history.

This change converges with a much longer trend; the stigma that career breakers have faced upon returning to the workplace, a predominantly female experience that has been the subject of much talk in the pre-COVID years but has persisted. Every day, thousands of educated and skilled women consider returning to work after a career break.

The reality is that highly qualified women often take career breaks to raise families or care for aging parents. However, a frustrating reality often awaits these women as they re-enter the workforce. Although they bring a wealth of experience, skills and determination, they are often overlooked and underutilized in a job market that favors young hires with continuous work histories. An American study (2013) on unemployment revealed that managers prefer to hire a less qualified candidate than a candidate who has been unemployed for more than six months, assuming that a career break leads to a deterioration in skills.

If it is undeniable that career interruption remains an obstacle, we have been witnessing for two years a rapid and unexpected overhaul of the construction of work. The future of work is flexible and is experiencing a fundamental shift in perspective. This provides a unique opportunity for women returning to their careers. Companies that embrace this shift in perspective can only benefit from acquiring diverse talent.

Here are 3 signs that the bias is breaking on career interruption and why employers should fully embrace it.

1. Balance of biases

There is no denying the stigma of the pre-pandemic career break, which has had adverse effects on hiring patterns. However, amid the pandemic, the concept of a career break was, for the first time in history, an issue that afflicts men and women almost equally. In fact, the pandemic has driven nearly 1.8 million women and 1.75 million men out of the labor market since February 2020. The context was varied, starting mainly with job losses inflicted by the pandemic. for many. However, periods of self-reflection and burnout became the driving force behind the great resignation.

A choice that is not gender specific or rooted in harmful preconceptions. It suddenly seems that a career gap is almost becoming fashionable, or at least not being criticized anymore. This is evident from the launch last month of the LinkedIn Career Breaks feature, which the company says will “better capture a job seeker’s life experiences.” LinkedIn says the feature could be a boon for women, with survey results showing that 68% of women want “more ways to positively portray their career breaks by highlighting the skills they’ve learned and the experiences they’ve had.” experienced during a work break”. Although the results are not yet visible, it seems that we are witnessing a significant shift in perspective and a move away from career breaks as being a feminine or personal stigma to rather being the result of time and circumstances.

2. The benefit of experience sharing

March 2020 has brought an unprecedented level of disruption, but with it new levels of insight, especially regarding the personal lives of those we work with. Suddenly we all see images of CEOs and people of all genders and levels on webcams with children on their laps, barking dogs in the background or caring for elderly and vulnerable families. The world has seen a new side of people at all levels and the challenges people face in their lives. According to a May 2020 Boston Consulting Group survey, 55% of women in U.S. households spend 15 or more hours per week on housework than men, the equivalent of a day and a half. The reality that women carry more of the burden has always been known, but the pandemic has highlighted the reality of what that entails. In the absence of school, child care and extra support, people at all levels have had an idea of ​​the physical, emotional and professional cost involved in managing career and family.

Once thought of as an escape or “time out,” the idea of ​​a career break as a vacation has become far-fetched. For the first time the world has seen and experienced the collision of work and home, and this can only erode age-old skepticism about the level of work involved. It has become clear from the shared experience of living through a pandemic that the justification for career breaks is entirely justified, and that women returning to work bring unique practical and adaptable life skills in addition to qualifications and skills.

3. A New Appreciation for Unlimited Skills

It is undeniable that new uncertainties have accelerated over the past 2 years. Remote and flexible work arrangements are an example of rapid adaptations that a crisis can catalyze. The same goes for building skill sets. As the organizations around us embrace new trends every day, employees need to embrace forward-thinking approaches and transformational skills and move away from an excessive focus on qualifications and credentials. In 2021, Forbes reported that LinkedIn would have seen a 21% increase in job postings in the United States advertising skills and responsibilities instead of qualifications and requirements.

Above all, employers are looking for dedicated and motivated staff with a growth mindset and the resilience to grow and evolve with the business. A 2021 McKinsey report analyzing 18,000 employees in 15 countries highlighted transferable skills such as emotional intelligence, creative thinking and problem solving as key skills for the future, challenging the bias of the career interruption penalty based on an assumption of skills erosion.

The world of work is changing at an incredible pace and companies are looking for a new era in the labor market. The worker of the future is smart, nimble, empathetic, self-aware and up for the challenge. Skills that are not lost but are built over career breaks and times of personal life reset, challenge and reflection.

Now is the time for forward-thinking employers to seek out alternative talent pools and be more inclusive of women returning from career breaks, which will create a stronger, more diverse workforce.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.


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