Across the US, the effects of these last few years have had a profound impact on female workers. In 2020, 2.3 million women left the US workforce, representing a staggering 80% of the population exiting the labor force.¹² Thankfully, there are excellent programs offering support to those women returning to work—one of which has brought excellent talent to Pure Storage in recent years.
Women in the Workplace in 2023
In 2021, female participation in the US workforce was the lowest in more than 30 years. Yet while the numbers seem 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
Women who have been out of the workforce for multiple years can face challenges. 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.
However, for returning mothers, their status as a parent can actually be 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.
Supporting Returners Through Women Back to Work
This organizational perspective led Pure to participate in a returnship program run by Women Back to Work, which 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 often biased against them.
Priyamsa Maddila, a Software Engineer in Pure’s FlashArray Continuous Integration team, joined Pure through Women Back to Work after a two-year workforce absence following her marriage and a move between countries. Not only was Women Back to Work able to support Maddila in finding a role that matched her background and Python work experience, but both Women Back to Work and Pure offered additional guidance as she navigated her return to corporate life.
In particular, Maddila appreciated the internal and external mentorship offered by both Women Back to Work and Pure. “We would have different sync-ups, and they would help me get unblocked so that I could excel at the tasks,” she explains. “Externally, with Women Back to Work, there would be a person who would do check-in calls every two weeks to make sure I was doing well and, if necessary, would have conversations with my manager [at Pure] to get feedback throughout the period of my returnship.”
“It all felt so smooth and seamless,” she continues. “I was a part of the team, just like any normal employee. But at the same time, I would also get to benefit from Women Back to Work’s guidance.”
Hiring for Skills, Not Resumes
Maddila is quick to point out that it isn’t only women that benefit from returnship opportunities. “It’s been a stereotype that returnships are for women getting back to work. But they’re beneficial for anyone with a gap on their resumes, for any reason.”
We agree, which is why, at Pure, we’ve made it our mission to hire individuals who share our values, are a culture fit, and have the right skills. We believe in being an idea-meritocracy, and 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. These tools are resume-blind, experience-blind, and industry-blind—meaning that nobody is disadvantaged by a career gap. 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. This helps ensure we’re measuring what really matters: how someone will perform on the job.
Even though returners can 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.