Friday, 25 May 2018

She's Back!

So, you’ve taken a career break. If you are truly serious about getting back to work, She’s Back, was expressly written for you. Lisa Unwin and Deb Khan have cleverly challenged all the handwringing surrounding the thorny issue of gender imbalance in the workplace. This book fully explores why 85% of the women who elected (or for whom life circumstances forced them) to jump off the career merry-go-round, want to return to work.

More urgently, it addresses - with mounds of evidence - everything that is getting in the way of all these talented, well trained women. Lisa and Deb are hell-bent at getting them off the bench. They see now as the time to reverse the decades of invaluable social and intellectual capital, which have already been lost.

And that’s important, not only for this fallow talent pool, but for the economy at large. Particularly when that economy is missing out on the potential of far greater output at a higher innovation rate. And while this book is written with women in mind, it’s really for people, because work-life balance is a minefield for everyone.

Their research is compelling and the business case evidence in support of returnees is overwhelming.  These 294 pages bring you completely up to date on returning to work, including resource materials with helpful links to more specific issues. It zips along in a thoroughly engaging fashion, filled with snappy catchphrases and incisive quotes from believable people. Case studies are used to good affect and serve to bolster enthusiasm for the all consuming task ahead. There is no gettingaround it. Returning will not be straightforward but this book signposts every step necessary to confidently Mind the “Career” Gap.

She’s Back is divided into three sections. The first outlines the current situation and why work needs women, the second focuses on the individual journey each returnee is on and why each unique story is a strength to be shamelessly exploited. The third is the most important, making the case for female equality, includingthat elusive financial equality. Money matters. Women want to be personally fulfilled by working but they also want to be paid for it, the same as a man would be.

This book goes to work with deliberate exercises interspersed, daring the reader to face their own demons and clarify their intentions. Women want to get back in but when they do, why is it so often in a job "they could do standing on their heads"? A lot of that has to do with the way the recruiting system is institutionalized, starting with the algorithms used in the ATS (Applicant Tracking System) point of entry. Contemporary hiring practices are demystified and a comprehensive methodology for making your CV, LI profile and interviewing preparation impeccable, is generously offered. Notably, the tool kit also endorses use of personal coaching, to galvanize efforts and renew confidence; confidence deficits abound in this group.

The facts are clear that the deck has been stacked againstwomen. They face a triple whammy on their lifetime earnings potential. Longevity expectations are higher, they’ve had lower salaries throughout their workinglife and that means a smaller pension pot - without even factoring in that women shoulder an unequal share of the costs of childcare and quite possibly costs of ageing relatives. “Since when did any child have only one parent?” is a question worth asking. Today, more women are doing just that because they’ve been picking up that slack since forever and because there is no way around it, taking a career break is costly. With potentially 20 plus years of career runway ahead, there is an economic imperative to get women back in. She’s Back delivers this message, bristling with chutzpah and realistic optimism.

Over 1300 women participated in the research supporting She’s Back and the average respondent was a 41 year old with 12 years of work experience. These women want back in on new terms. They want flexibility, they want to be trusted and they want to work in a place where their contributions are valued. This book can help make that scenario possible.

In closing, there is also a strong case, yet to be made, for the women of the baby boomer cohort. They are also a force to be reckoned with. Now aged 54-72, many of these women have an economic imperative too. They represent the first generation of highly educated and experienced women who entered the work force in number, back in the 1960’s and 70’s. Many checked out, long before flexibility, trust and value were something that could be negotiated. In the current environment, the impetus to get woman back into the workplace has never been greater. Age should never represent a limiting factor either. There’s no time like the present to catch old.


Deborah Gale
Ageing Aficionado

Intergen Design Leader, The Age of No Retirement