Unemployed Mothers Need Not Apply

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When I heard it, I thought it must be an error. According to a Mercer study, 40 percent of the women who leave their job to have children struggle to reenter the workforce when they’re ready to come back.

How can that be?

The interesting (ironic?) thing is that according to the 2011 HRxAnalysts Psychographic Survey of HR Professionals, HR is a woman — a 47-year-old, white, post-graduate degree, conservative woman.

More specifically: Women outnumber men by a large margin at the generalist level (82 percent women, 18 percent men). But the gap shrinks at the manager level and above (women still hold a significant majority of management positions, but only 64 percent on average – a 22 percent drop from the ranks of HR generalist). The bottom line is that men are promoted in greater proportion than women, from generalist to manager.

Why won’t companies consider hiring these women back?

Even so, the majority of chief human resource officers are still women. So you’d think that, regardless of male-dominated obstacles women have had to deal with for a millennia and more, they would be more opportunities to come back to work than not.

And not that female HR management should give preferential treatment to these women; they know more than anyone how they’re companies are struggling to find the right talent globally.

That’s led to a lot more attention being paid to internal talent mobility, but that’s only one of many talent pools both inside and out that companies today need to maintain and engage frequently.

So again, why wouldn’t companies considering hiring these women back?

Fallout from the “unemployed need not apply” movement?

Sadly, I believe it has a lot to do with the “unemployed need not apply” movement (as well as some level of gender discrimination). Those men and women who have been out of work for any significant length of time – three (3) months, six (6) months, one year, even more – with conventional wisdom telling us that skill attrition will take it’s toll on these folks, making it more difficult to on board and train them versus those who have still been “working.”

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The other movement that may help to offset this kind of discrimination is the career management movement where out-of-work professionals are going back to school, learning new skills, acquiring new certifications or updating their existing ones, participating in internships or volunteering.

The fact is, workplace tenure has gone from 19-plus years in 1950 to less than four now (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), and high unemployment and the rise in contract work means that we’re working multiple short-term gigs, but yet we still emphasize having at least two years at an employer with limited to no gaps in employment history.

The good news is we’re all more resilient and adaptable than today’s employers give us credit for and that goes for previously professional working mothers more than most.

I should know. I’m married to a pretty darn smart one.

This was originally published on Kevin Grossman’s blog at Marcom HRsay.

Kevin W. Grossman is the Talent Board president of global programs responsible for all aspects of the Candidate Experience Awards worldwide, the first nonprofit research organization focused on the elevation and promotion of a quality candidate experience. He also produces and hosts multiple “world of work” podcasts including The CandEs Shop Talk and WorkingTech. A certified Talent Acquisition Strategist (TAS) and Human Capital Strategist (HCS) by HCI, he has over 19 years of domain expertise in the human resource and talent acquisition industry.