Returnship Programs and The She-cession

Olivia Lam

August 22, 2022

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It's Like an Internship?

Yes... and no. A returnship is essentially a launchpad back into the workplace for individuals who have left for an extended period of time. That could be for any number of reasons: time off to take care of children, issues related to health, military leave, or simply because you took time building your career path. These are similar to other return-to-work programs called "direct-hire programs," where you are hired immediately and then trained, whereas in returnships you are trained and then possibly hired. Much like traditional internships, they are paid, project-based trial runs from companies, but just modified for adults midway through their careers.

The Value in Returnships

For those who have been out of the workforce, a few weeks to a couple of months of workplace boot camp can go a long way in supporting their career development. Many years may have passed since these individuals have been at a traditional workplace, so being able to gradually adjust to changes like new regulations, the types of technology being used, Microsoft Excel, or even the office Keurig, can be extremely valuable.

It is natural to lack confidence while entering an almost completely new environment, and returnships establish those baseline skills and comfort to excel, or even just to acclimate to the workplace. Returnship programs also bring together professionals with a shared experience, who can support each other as they navigate the workplace, and can build a network of people who understand the trials of a career gap. As the workplace rapidly changes and expands, someone in a returnship might also find that they can enter a completely new role within their job, or that maybe it is time to branch off into a new career. Ultimately, this allows returners to feel more confident in both their career and themselves.

This also presents the opportunity for these individuals to get hired, with over 80% of professionals enrolled in these programs getting offered a position upon completion.

The "She-cession" Effect

The Covid-19 pandemic had a particularly devastating effect on the numbers of female professionals in the workplace. Since its start in early 2020, almost two million women have left their formal employment, this being 28% of previously employed women compared to the 10% of their male counterparts who left their jobs. Just in the month of December 2020, 140,000 female jobs were lost due primarily to child care needs, with women of color facing the worst of it. What is even more concerning is that men have regained triple the lost jobs women have, with companies seemingly leaving women behind in the rush to reopen the economy. This is why returnships are so incredibly vital for gender equality in the workplace right now. Two years have already come and gone since the start of the pandemic, and women need the security and confidence to transition back into the workplace to breach this divide. Companies like these have already begun the initiative to shorten the ever-widening gender gap in the workplace, and hopefully, get women back to work.

Two million female professionals have left unnoticed, but with the initiative from plenty of companies like these, we are starting to get women back to work.

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