Four Suggestions for Employers on International Women’s Day

Path Forward supports caregivers of all genders in returning to the workforce. But we recognize that women often carry an extra burden.

That’s why for International Women’s Day on March 8, we’re calling out that many obstacles women face are due to gendered stereotypes about careers and caregiving.

In the home, these may include ingrained ideas about who is most responsible for providing childcare or whose career is most important. In the workplace, there may be biased assumptions about women’s leadership potential, or lack of flexible policies for balancing work and family life, or a reluctance to hire individuals who’ve taken a career break to provide child or family care.

How can we #BreakTheBias and tackle these stereotypes? 

At Path Forward, we’re especially focused on the bias against career breaks. We’ve worked with more than 100 forward-thinking employers over the past five years to create pathways for caregivers to restart their careers. 

The following four suggestions come out of that work. They offer employers a way to consider changes in thinking and practice that will support women and other caregivers in leading their fullest and best lives.

  1. Make space.
    Your organization can access a hugely talented, and largely overlooked, talent pool by making space to hire women and other caregivers who’ve taken a career break. “Space” in this case means both mindset and headcount. Encourage hiring managers, for example, to take a step back when writing job descriptions to consider transferable skills that can get the job done. This can actually lead to managers considering a much wider pool of talent, including those with gaps for caregiving.
  2. Normalize career breaks.
    Taking a career break to care for family or yourself is something to celebrate not stigmatize. When you create pathways for returners at your organization – for example, through returnship programs – you’re doing a lot towards normalizing career breaks at your organization and in the world at large. An added bonus? Your current employees will appreciate being part of an organization that visibly supports caregivers at various stages in their careers.
  3. Invest time upfront to get a big return later.
    Experienced professionals who are coming back to the workforce after a career break can be transformational to your organization. You’ll want to create an on-ramp for returners that includes training and mentorship to help them gain confidence, refresh their skills, and quickly put their wealth of experience to use driving performance and innovation. This investment will pay off greatly in the form of loyal, hardworking, and creative team members.
  4. Play the long game.
    Take a look at your organization’s flex and family leave policies. Are you inadvertently driving women off the executive leadership path? If you want representation later, policies and practices need to be in place now to support women in their early and mid careers, when caregiving issues are often most acute.

Do you have other suggestions for how employers can support and celebrate women on International Women’s Day and throughout the year? Let us know!


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