“So, what do you do?”
Sound familiar, this question? Yes, it is the question that follows most formal introductions. Nothing wrong with it, except that it makes many women fumble for words. Responses from stay-at home moms are often on the lines of “I am just a stay-at-home mom” or “I am a homemaker”, or “I am trying to get back to work” or the worst of them all -“Nothing.”
Nothing?!!! How on earth can something that is more than a full-time job be termed as doing ‘nothing’ is beyond me. And yet, this is real. Many women feel this identity void, especially after their careers hit an abrupt halt after taking a break to raise their young families. The break costs them their professional networks, putting them out of the talent pool.
Part of this problem is because women are at a loss to explain their career break. At least they were, until LinkedIn- the world’s largest professional network decided to remedy it by introducing “Stay-At-Home Mom” and “Stay-At-Home Dad” as official job titles last week, addressing a trend where more men are opting to be primary caretakers in their families.
Interestingly, the development came after LinkedIn responded to a blog post on Medium by Heather Bolen who pointed out the restricted range of profile options on LinkedIn for people who have been forced out of the workforce for a variety of reasons, limiting options for people to explain their time away from work, which seems absurdly magnified in the times of a pandemic.
Fortune reports that LinkedIn has also done away with the requirement to link position entries to a specific business or company- which is huge considering you are on your own, running your little home.
Strikingly, there are zero pre-populated options on LinkedIn to identify maternity leave, parental leave, adoption leave, sick leave, bereavement leave, elderly care leave, or for long term injury/illness, education/re-training, volunteering, long term travel, a gap year, a sabbatical — or for a pandemic. To the extent all types of caretaking roles are often filled by women, the stigma of stepping away from paid employment is even further borne by women- Heather Bolen on LinkedIn job titles reflecting career breaks.
Women taking a break from career for the family is not a minor trend. Nearly 48 percent of Indian working women take a break before they turn 30. The number is nearly 43% globally. In fact, the inability to explain the work gap is one of the reasons that a growing number of women are returning to work as entrepreneurs- a demographic often referred to by a new coinage- mompreneurs.
Many organizations have been working to help women reboot their careers after the break. Now that several corporations are working on their policies to include diversity in teams, these organizations work as a bridge between organizations looking to hire talent and women who need scaffolding to get back on the corporate ladder.
We made a quick-reference list of organizations you can fall back on for a career reboot:
JobsForHer is India’s largest career accelerator platform founded by Neha Bagaria. The platform caters to different phases and needs of women looking to join the workforce by helping them through mentorships in super-niche groups.
Started in 2005 by Dr. Soundarya Rajesh, Avtar I-Win was the very first program that was set up to help women re-enter the workplace. Since then, they have helped over 15000 women re-enter the workplace after a career break, thanks to their relentless work through counseling sessions, career-entry programs, skill-building, and networking sessions. Avtar has also bridged the gap with corporates by developing a gender inclusion plan using research and analytics, that would show the monetary value for organizations if they invested in.
Her Second Innings not just helps women land a job, but goes beyond that role by helping them find the best fit for her skills and experience. Founded by Manjula Dharmalingam and Madhuri Kale in November 2014, HerSecondInnings provides online coaching and a range of options including contract assignments, short-term projects, consultancy, and even entrepreneurial opportunities.
Bk2Wrk is India’s first non-profit, talent enablement platform that helps job seekers find the right fit. It helps both men and women who have lost their jobs or are struggling to get back into the workforce to find jobs that fit their skills and experience.
Reboot helps women develop career purposefulness as a Diverse Workforce Participation Strategist Firm. They not only help women get back to their careers after a break but also help them make meaningful lateral transitions. Reboot offers two flagship programs –
- RebootHer: – an 8- week immersive experiential learning program with the best industry mentors that allow women to return to the workplace fully equipped for the challenge.
- Equal Half- The Equal Half program believes that it is important for men to join in the conversation and change patriarchal conditioning if women have to transition smoothly to the workplace and find success. The Equal Half program is “India’s first effort to create a forum for men to come together with women to build awareness, engage in conversations and contribute to a Planet 5050 by 2030.”
Founded by Sairee Chahal in Noida in 2014, SHEROES is a women-only social network that also leads the larger purpose of helping women fight sexual harassment in the workplace. Their flagship Fleximoms program helps women find opportunities including connecting with women-friendly employers, mompreneur programs, and even partnership programs that will kickstart them into a new career. The built-in social network of SHEROES gives them the added advantage of having ready mentors within their reach at all times.