Are you paying enough attention to at home-moms? In the past several years, women have left the workforce to focus on baby food, carpools, and the inner workings of morning and afternoon playgroups. I remember when I worked full-time for a trade association in D.C. and our weekly playgroup took place at 6 p.m. just to accommodate my schedule. It seems crazy now, but at the time it absolutely saved me.
These days, businesses and business schools are realizing that the women who took off to stay at home have loads and loads of expertise to offer the workplace. Still, many need to be brought up to date on what´s been happening in their respective fields. Some women (like me if, say I were to go into a PR firm in downtown Chicago) aren´t sure about what they need to wear. But the questions go beyond one´s wardrobe. Re-entering the workforce forces women (and in some few cases for at-home dads) to examine their skills sets-do they have what´s necessary to succeed and can they use their mothering (and fathering) skills to leapfrog back from the sandbox into the conference room? It sounds like good ad copy, the kind that makes the transition look almost cool. But getting back to the office and feeling like you belong after a significant absence might seem far from cool. It can be downright frustrating, intimidating, and all those things that are associated with starting your first job.
Later this month the Center for Women´s Leadership at Babson is offering "Act II: Stepping Back Into the Workforce," a two-day program intended to help women make the transition. Babson alumnae and spouses will pay $1,400 for the workshop; others need to shell out $1,600. That´s a lot of dough to find out if you have what it takes to get back in the game. Still, somebody is thinking-it´s a competitive world out there and stepping back in is a lot harder than we might imagine, which brings me back to what you might be doing to help your employees who decide to take some time off to take care of their kids full time. I know that the talent out there is increasingly fierce, so why bother investing in people who leave you?! On the other hand, isn´t there something to be said for someone who´s taken a professional break to raise kids? The point is this: there are women who want to take the break but they want to work, too, when the time is right. Will you let them back? Will you help them make the leap?