The Problem

Talented women put their careers on hold for childcare and other caregiving responsibilities. While most intend to return to the workforce, the road back is arduous and many find their career aspirations are permanently sidelined. Meanwhile, many companies struggle to achieve gender diversity and pay the price in terms of public relations and bottom line results. These same companies also often struggle to find enough talent, regardless of gender, to achieve success. We believe the talent they need is out there but it may not be immediately evident to them.

Our Solution

20-week paid internships for midcareer professionals who have been out of the workforce for more than two years to accommodate caregiving responsibilities. This idea is based on a program that Return Path, a software company with offices around the world, built for itself and successfully ran for six partner companies in 2015/2016. Nearly 40 women completed internships in March of 2016 and nearly 80% of them were offered continued employment. The program works because it gives hiring managers the opportunity to hire women with a gap in their experience in a low-risk way. It also gives the women in the program the opportunity to update their skills and add relevant, up-to-date experience to their resumes. To increase the impact and scale of the idea, Return Path is spinning the program out as a separate, nonprofit organization called Path Forward.

The Impact

“While I’m sure there are those rare souls who gracefully integrate a professional life and a family life with ease, I’ve stumbled plenty searching for that nebulous ‘life balance.’ The Path Forward program has allowed me to re-engage with a career I assumed had been lost to earlier choices. Thank you for making it possible for me to test the intellectual waters again.” — Lisa, QA Engineer, Moz

Participants in the program get the opportunity to update their skills and experience by doing meaningful work for leading companies. Path Forward provides them with training on getting back to work, integrating work and life, and career building skills. The program also provides them with access to an instant network of women in the program across several companies and to recruiters at all of the partner companies. Path Forward provides the women in the program with mentoring throughout the program and offboarding support at the conclusion. Our success will be measured by the number of women who achieve lasting employment in their field of choice.

We currently have women (and men) in return to work programs at Return Path, PayPal, Moz, SendGrid, ReadyTalk, SpotX and MWH. We are awaiting final decisions on hiring but believe that more than 80% will achieve regular employment following the end of the program.

We know this program has a significant impact for the people who participate and the companies that hire them. By creating this nonprofit we can bring this program to more companies and impact more women. At the macro level this program can pull a lever on increasing women’s participation in the workforce, leading to greater gender equality.

The Business Model

We would offer this program to a group of companies in a geography each of whom pays an administrative fee for us to run the program, which includes onboarding, professional development, feedback sessions, networking, and off-boarding. In this way the organization will become self-sustaining.

We believe there are three sources of funding within prospective partner organizations:

  • Recruiting: The cost of the program will compare favorably to standard recruiting fees
  • Diversity: Companies pour money into programs with little impact – this program can drive measurable change in the short term
  • Philanthropy: Companies that can’t participate in the program will be able to support our efforts

Initial Funding

We are looking to raise $500,000 in 2016 to fund the costs of starting the organization and proving out the model of sustainability. That funding will finance:

  • Staffing, primarily aimed at recruiting new partners and participants, marketing, and the build out of the program and supporting technology
  • Technology to enable the creation of an online network of partners and participants
  • Marketing in the form of sponsorships, advertising, branding and PR

First round supporters will be:

  • Listed as a founding donor on our website and in other marketing materials
  • Invited to all end-of-program celebration events with returnees
  • Sent quarterly updates on the progress of the organization, including “participant spotlights”
  • Assigned a place on our Advisory Board