This is third of a three-part blog series about women returning to work after having children. You can read part 1 here and part 2 here.
Hi again! Got your smart, productive, lady? She said yes? You’re paying her well?
Alright! Let’s set her up for success.
I was recently talking to a friend who I deeply respect, and who developed a returnship program for women. She said they originally thought the biggest challenge would be teaching these women the business. And, they were wrong. They learned that picking up the business was the easy part for these women, or at least not complicated (see parts 1&2 of this blog: skills, focus, efficiency, smarts).
What was MORE challenging was giving the women confidence in their ability to undertake the business of business. She called it the “etiquette”; I call it "the language."
Case in point: I have a friend who was looking to go back to work after 7 years home with her kids. Her biggest obstacle wasn’t finding a job, despite the length of that break: she has an incredible network, she has skills, and within a couple weeks of dipping her toe had some bites that she could have pursued. After a couple of conversations, however, her confidence was shaken: she knew she could do the job(s) and do them well, but she felt like she had been dropped into a group of humans speaking a dialect that she didn't fully understand. The conversations she had were full of assumptions; the technologies mentioned she hadn't touched in years. She felt there wasn’t a clear opportunity to ask questions, or that she had too many. It made her overly self-conscious. This, from a woman with a law degree, several years of a career under her belt before she left to stay home, and some part-time and contract work in between.
Despite running multiple schedules, a household budget, negotiating rates for any and all work, and managing projects of high complexity - all in a day, sometimes - it’s not often that the terms OOO or SaaS or ERG are thrown around at the dinner table. And words like Disruption or Go-to-Market have very different contextual meanings. And technology? Stay at home moms aren’t generally working for hours each day on a computer, creating PPTs weekly in the latest version, joining AHCs via zoom monthly. (Blah blah blah).
It’s not hard or expensive to be accommodating. Create a business dictionary. Develop a "what days look like around here" manual. Make sure your on-boarding process includes some back-to-basics with technology, and then offer support to see those learnings through. Train managers how to say (and deeply mean) the words, “I know a lot of this is new to you. Ask me any question. All the questions.” Offer a mentor for the first three months whose role is centered around the cultural norms of the day-to-day.
Give them specific information on what drives their new stakeholders (although there are certainly shared traits between corporate leaders and 5 year olds, there are nuances). Re-train them how to communicate and present and be influential.
Give. Them. Confidence. that this new "language" won't get in the way of doing the killer job they know they can.
Also. Remember how I said earlier moms are really really productive? That means they don’t have to be chained to a desk (nobody should be - but that’s another rant altogether) nor should any expectation or judgement exist around the first in/last to leave mentality nor should they be hovered over. If they have to take a kid to a doctor's appointment at 2pm, they’re going to get done what they need to before or after. So, the sideways glances or grief-giving is just dumb. Don’t do it, and call out your team when they do it.
So, there you have it: get these brilliant, well-qualified, hard-working women through the door, in the office, and into the driver's seat of their fabulous new position with your company. Appreciate the value they add. Then, pat yourself on the back and put your feet up...you've done it! (KIDDING - for the love of god, don't stop there.) Need to build programs and initiatives to RETAIN your gender diverse talent? We do that - reach out to learn more.