What if Businesses invested in women returning to work?

When discussing the topic of women returning to the work force it either conjures up stories of frustration or it’s simply not on anyone’s radar. However the implications of not having these professional women in the workforce actually affects us all and further entrenches gender equality gaps.

Women continue to be graduating in greater numbers, now representing 58.7% of all graduates in Australia - the talent starts in the system, however women only hold 12.9% of chair positions, 16.3% of CEOs and 28.54% of key management personnel roles. With these positions comes power and decision making authority that impacts everyone in society. Women need to play a greater role at these levels. So what if we could get women who left their executive and management roles, back into the workforce? What if they didn’t have to move into more junior roles? What if we valued their break and welcomed them back as key assets to a business?

Through having time out and working part time, women are in a far worse position in terms of earning capacity and superannuation. This impacts their overall lifetime economic security, which is reflected in the gender pay gap which currently sits at 16%. Current predications also have women having half as much super as men at retirement, which have significant implication down the track especially because we are living longer. But what if women were more financially independent? What implications would economic security have on women in divorce and domestic violence situations? What if women didn’t need to take a pay cut, just to find an accommodating role? 

Mental health implications are also prevalent - many women when thinking of returning to work feel a loss in confidence and self-belief, downgrading of worth, a sense of failing because traditional job search methods don’t work and feeling trapped and not knowing the next step. But what if we had a system that not only supported, but valued non-linear careers? What if recruitment focused more on show me what you can do, not tell me what you did yesterday? What if we felt proud to raise our children?

And finally it is estimated that increasing women’s workforce participation in Australia by 6% could increase the national GDP by $25 billion, thereby creating a healthier economy, more jobs and money to spend on infrastructure and services. So what if the 6% could come from women returners? What if we proactively targeted this base?

Women will continue to have career breaks to raise children, but the key is to ensure that they can be supported back into the workforce and operate at meaningful levels. No one solution will close all the gaps, but as a minimum we must acknowledge that we need these women back. It is not a nice to have or let’s be equal for the sake of it, there are real consequences that permeate our society by not moving forward in attracting and supporting the return of these talented women.

So what if businesses focused on women returners…..could we move closer to equality?

Michelle Ayyuce