The tech industry’s challenge with women in two-fold: first, they need to attract the right talent. Second, they need to figure out a way to keep them there. The numbers look grim when it comes to the latter; according to Fast Company, “U.S. women working in science, engineering, and tech fields are 45% more likely than their male peers to leave the industry within the year.” And, an early study via Harvard Business Review noted that 52% of women in STEM careers jump out of their careers in their mid to late thirties.
The reasons why include struggling to get to the top, unwelcoming culture and a desire to have children. Add the feeling of being alone, lack of sponsors and mentors, and the classic Silicon Valley boys club vibes and you have a mass exodus of mid-career women. So, what’s a company to do when they lose this critical pool of female tech talent? And, what’s a woman to do when they do take time off and wish to return to work one day?
IBM: Tech Re-Entry
IBM’s approach: a 12-week internship program, where participants re-gain critical hands-on experience in a specific IBM business. Every participant is assigned a mentor and works on a real project, allowing them to gain experience while having support every step of the way. This creates a win-win all around: IBM’s managers get to see real work and real results before making a hiring decision. And the interns get to sharpen their skills and gain new ones.
Jennifer Howland, who leads the program for IBM, admits that: “Most employers don’t look kindly on the fact that someone has not been doing work and someone has taken a career break for 15 to 20 years.”
PayPal’s Recharge program offers interns 16 weeks to build new skills and gain confidence. The program covers career skills like giving presentations and polishing your LinkedIn profile. As an alternative to the 16-week program, participants may join a bootcamp-style program. Both roles are paid.
A cultural shift
iRelaunch, a company that focuses exclusively on career re-entry programs and works with a variety of employers to help them create their career re-entry programs, notes that, “There has been an explosion of career reentry programs since 2004, when the topic of career reentry began to gain steam in the media and as a research topic for academics. In October 2008, our first list included 57 programs worldwide, at universities, employers, government agencies, professional associations, non-profits and foundations. Only nine of these 57 programs, or 16%, existed prior to 2004.”
iRelaunch’s current list of re-entry programs is at 189; you can find out more here.