Pay It Backward (and Forward)
Another way to make a difference for moms and families is to mentor, advocate for, and hire women who have paused their careers. As I learned from my many interviews and from the respondents to the Women on the Rise survey, the reasons a woman leaves the paid workforce are manifold. Let’s not waste their time or ours by needlessly judging them. Let’s help them get back into the paid workforce so their talents can be used to help our businesses, economy, and country grow.
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Remember Diane Flynn, the chief marketing officer of GSVlabs? She was so passionate about supporting other women to relaunch their careers that she co-founded ReBoot Accelerator. It’s a program that works to ensure women who have paused have the technical savvy to interact with those who have not left the paid workforce. Their motto: Current, Confident, Connected.
As I have shared, ReBoot Accelerator is just one of a number of programs committed to ensuring women who have paused their careers can relaunch. Carol Fishman Cohen, CEO and co-founder of iRelaunch, was the trailblazer in this area. Her company offers conferences and online training to women who are ready to reengage. Carol also championed the notion of return-to-work internships and, because of her advocacy, many companies, including IBM, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and others, are bringing talent back into the paid workforce.
Women like Diane and Carol are part of a growing sisterhood who are working, pausing, thriving, AND making sure others can too. But so are many women who never paused. Marlene Williamson is just such a woman. She proudly says she never wanted or needed to pull back from her career. The reason why? She had supportive bosses and a supportive spouse, and she loved her job as a chief marketing officer for a number of high-technology companies. As she told me, “My north star always started with my husband and my children. In every job I worked in, I made that clear and was lucky enough to have employers who supported me.”
Now Marlene wants to pay it forward and has taken on the role of chief executive officer of Watermark, a leading women’s networking organization based in the San Francisco Bay Area. “My vision has been the same since I began my career. I want women to have the opportunity to be the kind of leaders they want to be. We’re committed to helping advance women at whatever stage they are in to get to the next level.” Marlene may have never “opted out,” but she is excited to help women “opt in.”
There are scores of ways you can offer support to women who are rebooting their careers, from introductions, resume advice, and interview practice, to just plain old “you go, girl” cheerleading. It’s time we debunk the myth that women are each other’s worst enemies. The more we can help each other, the more we all benefit.