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How can employers attract women who’ve taken a career break?

Senior HR leaders joined Robert Walters and guest speaker Leigh Bowman-Perks at a breakfast seminar in London, which looked at strategies and opportunities for employers in attracting and engaging women returning to the workforce.

Bowman-Perks, author of 'Inspiring Women Leaders' and Executive Coach and CEO of Clareo Potential, delivered advice to businesses on their staffing strategies as part fo the launch of the latest Robert Walters Empowering Women research, Attracting and Engaging Women Returning to the Workforce: A Guide for Employers.

Women who have taken a break in their career, whether it be to raise a family or for other reasons, represent a group that has the potential to make a huge contribution to businesses as well as offering skills which fill gaps faced by employers.   

Time for change

“A high proportion of organisations and leaders are stuck in a rut and fail to realise that in order to retain the best professionals they need to adapt their policies – particularly when it comes to flexible working”, said Bowman-Perks.

“In order for the current situation to change, leaders and decision makers within organisations need to adapt their policies as professionals have more choice nowadays than in the past and will leave roles that they no longer find fulfilling and organisations that don’t match their values.”

With 74% of women planning to return to the same employer following a career break but only 24% going to do so, employers are clearly struggling to retain staff. Employers that are focussing on retaining women in the workforce are therefore in a better position to retain talent.  

Key findings:

  • 97% of women said rewarding work is important so employers should consider how this impacts on their employee value proposition 
  • 89% believe personalised development plans are essential to success therefore building a structured ‘Return To Work’ scheme is essential
  • 62% of professionals want to work for an award winning employer so it is important for employers to strengthen channels through association membership, networking events, on-line communities and job boards


Bowman-Perks was clear about the attitude of best professionals returning to the workplace, "When you've had a career break would you want to go back to an expiring organisation that sucks the life out of you?" she said. 

“Women have choice now and organisations need to realise this.”

Rebecca Gaden, Manager of Secretarial Support at Robert Walters reflected on Bowman-Perks’ insight at the seminar, “Women who have done well in the workplace are often the ones who weren’t afraid to ask for what they wanted,” she said. “They have made their expectations known from the offset and therefore avoid getting over-looked.”

For women returning to the workforce, communicate clearly with your employer before you go on leave and remember to stay in touch with your employer during your break.


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