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What do women returners want?

With concerns about diversity and the skills drain, many employers are beginning to offer “women returner programmes”. But what will persuade women to return to work after a career break? This research explores the careers of women returners and what they want from future employers.

Women returners
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Getting back into work after a career break can feel a bit daunting. In aid of understanding what women returners want, we surveyed over a thousand potential “women returners” who had taken a career break of a year or more, and were seeking flexible work. We found that while there is a high demand for “women returner programmes” among those who have taken a long career break, the overwhelming majority are looking to return to part-time or flexible work.

Key findings:

The context

Of the women we surveyed:

  • 71% took a break of at least one year. 42% took 2 years or more
  • Only 26% returned to work with the same employer
  • 58% had chosen to return to work on a part-time basis
  • 63% of those returning to a part-time job had taken a lower salary than in their previous role
  • 60% of part-time returners and over half of full-time returners feel they have fallen behind in their careers and would like to get back on track.

What do women returners want?

Of the women we surveyed:

  • 93% of career break women wanted to return to a part-time job.
  • 45% are interested in returner programmes.
  • 70% want the returner programme to result in a flexible job, compared to 13% wanting a full-time job.
  • 49% want the returner programme to update their knowledge of industry sector trends
  • 47% want the returner programme to be confidence building

Timewise’s recommendations to employers

As there is little interest in returning to full-time work, employers should open up to flexible hiring, so they can offer appropriate flexible working arrangements. More specifically, employers should consider whether a 4 day working week can be accommodated, as this is the most preferred working pattern.


Published October 2015

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