Across the US, the effects of the last year and a half have hit female workers hard. In 2020, 2.3 million women left the US workforce, representing a staggering 80% of the population exiting the labor force.¹,² This month, Pure launched a new Returnship program through Women Back to Work to help professionals return to work after a career break.
Here’s a closer look at why and how the program works.
Women in the Workplace in 2021
Female participation in the US workforce is now the lowest it’s been in more than 30 years. Yet while the numbers are drastic, the underlying issues they reflect are not new. Women have always been more likely to leave the workforce, as they tend to shoulder a greater number of caring and household responsibilities.
Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that, two years after giving birth to their first child, 18% of female workers have not yet returned to work. For women giving birth to their second or third child, the drop is even higher. As we’ve seen all too often, finding a job after a career gap can be challenging—despite the enormous value and skills that women returners have to offer.
The Stigma Against Returners: Unfair and Unfounded
Women who have been out of the workforce for two years face being stereotyped as unambitious, uncommitted, and behind the times. One experiment found that employers in the US are nearly three times more likely to interview applicants without a career gap than someone who has been a stay-at-home parent for the last 18 months.
Returning mothers also must contend with convincing employers that their status as a parent is an asset, rather than a disadvantage. They often bring valuable transferable skills from both previous roles and their time out of the traditional workplace. This can include coordinating complex initiatives such as homeschooling pods, large community-facing programs and projects, and even fundraising millions of dollars.
“You hone serious time-management skills, along with greater productivity, purpose, and networking abilities when you become a parent,” says Julie Levitch, mom of two teen boys and a senior marketing content manager at Pure Storage. “Juggling kids’ schedules, meals, and maintaining a household are fundamental parenting skills that help me every day in my role.”
Simply put? They’re all qualities that we look for in new hires at Pure that every company can benefit from.
Hiring for Skills, Not Resumes
At Pure, we’ve made it our mission to hire people with the right skills, not the right backgrounds. We believe in being an idea-meritocracy, and we believe that having diverse perspectives and opinions makes us stronger. When we hire new staff, our goal is to tease out applicants’ potential for problem-solving, creativity, and collaboration—not just where they went to school or what bootcamp course they completed.
Across the company, we’ve made it a point to employ skills-based screenings that eliminate work-gap bias. For example, in engineering, we use the technical assessment tool HackerRank to determine applicants’ aptitude for the job. In sales roles, we use psychometric assessments. These tools are resume-blind, experience-blind, and industry-blind—meaning that nobody is disadvantaged by a career gap. This helps ensure we’re measuring what really matters: how someone will perform on the job.
Supporting Returners Through Women Back to Work
Pure’s new Returnship program supports women returning to the workforce by helping them tackle some of the biggest obstacles in their path: a lack of professional contacts, a changing job market, and companies that are biased against them. Workshops and webinars also train returners on everything from social media and branding to interviewing and writing resumes. These sessions help them develop a narrative that positions their career gap as a strength, in addition to helping them update and hone their job-hunting skills.
Even though returners face career gap stigmas, their time out of the workforce isn’t a weakness. They have great value to offer companies—and they deserve the chance to prove it. Bring your unique skills and perspective to Pure. Explore job opportunities now.