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Getting Back In There: Part 2

This is part two of a three-part blog series about women returning to work after having children. You can read part one here.

Ok! Your network has been ignited. You job post has been edited. The Stay at Home Women who are looking for their next move are officially in the door to be interviewed (and they've prepped, trust me).

Now let’s hire them, shall we?


Here are three pointers to finding the right fit - on both sides:

  • Most Importantly and I can't Stress This Enough: Train your hiring managers how to interview and assess diverse candidates - because women returning to work are not going to fit the nice, neat profile that you’re used to (nor should they). Just today I had (another) conversation with a recruiter at a big company; he managed to get a woman who was interested in coming back to work into the interview pool; by the by, he had to work hard for it. She didn't get the role, despite his belief that she was perfect. He's convinced that the hiring manager(s) simply didn't know what to DO when they talked to her: they didn't know what to ask, how to proceed. Here's the thing: women who have been home have skills and values you're not going to uncover if your POV is too narrow. And we know it's not malice on the part of the interviewer; it's a matter of not knowing. For example, if you ask a variation of the age old (and still effective) question, “when have you learned from a mistake” - what if you heard about a parenting mistake? What would your reaction be? Could you still apply the STAR method (or insert interview style of your choice) or would you be too thrown? Figure that out, then reframe the question or retrain your hiring managers to listen without judgement or assumption. There is so.much.out.there about this. Ask us. We have resources. We also have partners like Cecilia Stanton Adams who’s a goddess, especially for broader diversity questions. Also, I've learned a TON from my parenting mistakes that make me better at business. Although I've never stayed home, I can only imagine how some of what I've learned is amplified for those who do. For example, I learned not to boldly announce that something wonderful MIGHT happen without outlining the when, how, and the other side: that it might'en not. And I've learned what the line is on values: you don't cross the line, but you can have a ton of fun on the other side. And so so much more.

  • Be explicit. About the role. About what success looks like in the role. About the training you offer. About the process. About what’s required. About your doubts. About her doubts. Women who have been home don’t have an appetite for ‘round-about conversations or coyness. Nor are they interested in wasting anybody’s time (see post #1). They’ve arranged childcare to come in and talk, and they don’t want to do that 10 more times if it’s not the right fit in either direction. My previous CEO, Maureen Taylor, one of the most straight-forward and transparent humans I know, started every interview with “let me tell you what’s bad about us," then laid it all out, then went into what was great and spectacular. Be like her.

  • Understand that a woman jumping back in after a period of time at home often thinks about risk differently (not every individual falls into this category, of course - just know that it’s more likely than not they do). She is rearranging her life, and that is likely weighing heavily on both her and her family’s minds. It’s not like getting a promotion. It’s not like switching companies. It's closer to taking an international post: all the things change, for all the people, with little guarantee or insight into how it's going to go. That’s a lot of risk right there. For many, 'getting back in there' is enough risk for now. Adding a boatload more to that equation won't be appetizing. At the very least, a transparent conversation about any risk inherent in the role is important. The realistic likelihood of change or flux in the role - how often re-orgs happen, for example. Or management change - how likely is that? Or, how much do folks move around at your company? How well defined is the role? How much is unknown? Give it all to her - and let her figure out how much (more) she’s willing to risk. And money. Base pay vs incentives and what it takes to get said incentives to kick in - really. Talk about that. Andohbytheway, that risk thing will change. Once she’s got her new routine, and her kids are ok, and she gets used to wearing what we call here at Leveled our “grown up pants” (only worn for meetings, and ugh), that appetite for risk will shift. Before long, she’ll eye the bigger, gnarlier role and realize she’s perfect for it, what with her managing-the-difficult-people-in-her-sleep-(literally) skill*.

*Quick story. Can’t resist. A friend who will remain nameless, to protect the identify of her husband, woke up the other morning. Her daughter had snuck into their bed. My friend hadn’t woken up, however at some point her husband had. And he noticed that said child PEED IN THE BED (the parent’s bed). What did he do? He rolled out of the way and fell back asleep. I feel like my husband would do the same. And other husbands I know. Know who wouldn’t? ANY OF THE MOMS I KNOW (gay, straight, black, white, purple - however they identify as a mom - none of them). Yes, I know I’m in the biz of NOT stereotyping genders, but I’m going to. Here. Dads can be gross. Moms will get up in a daze and change the sheets. THOSE are valuable employees.


Still there? Got your smart, productive, lady? She said yes? You’re paying her well**?

Alright! In part 3, we'll talk about how to set her up for success.

**I don’t have to say “equitably”, do I?

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