Ruth Dance
Written by
Ruth Dance

On International Women’s Day (8th March 2019) – I sat down with Rebecca Willding-Jones of Gateway Career Management to discuss why we’re missing out on retaining top female talent in our organisations and what we can do about it.

According to website Pregnant then Screwed:

54,000 women a year are pushed out of their jobs due to pregnancy or maternity leave

77% of working mums have encountered negative or discriminatory treatment at work

40% of employers would avoid hiring a women of childbearing age

44% of working mums say that they earn less than they did before they had children

It’s not surprising then that a key driver of the gender pay gap is women taking time out of the workplace or working part time to take on caring responsibilities.

Rebecca, a mother to two young children herself, has been working as a coach for Gateway Career Management for the last few years. With a background in HR and Organisational Development at EDF Trading, Christie’ and Janus Capital Group, I wanted to understand a bit more about what she’s doing and why we are still not doing enough to support our female population in the workplace.

Who are Gateway Career Management?

Gateway Career Management provides career services to both individuals and organisations.

We work with people at all stages in their career from Graduates to Senior Managers and Executives. This may vary from one to one careers advice to tailored and personalised programmes for people who are redundant, seeking a new job or considering a career change.

Our clients range from experienced professionals, mum returners, middle and senior management to those wanting to start their own business, move into consultancy, interim or develop a portfolio career.

We offer a range of tailored services to organisations including outplacement programmes, career coaching, performance coaching and outsourced training management.

How do you help women get back to work?

 Returning to work after maternity leave or an extended career break can be daunting and overwhelming. Mum’s frequently report losing their confidence and lack clarity on the best path of return.

There are lots of options particularly around flexible careers when considering a return to work. We support women to identify the best path of return, this might involve transitioning into a new career, starting a new business or finding a flexible role.  We are passionate about ensuring women are confident, job ready and have a clear plan of action to help them get back to a fulfilling role.

We provide flexible coaching programmes both face to face and virtually. These are tailored and personalised to the individual. This may include refreshing a CV and social media profile, preparing for an interview with confidence, assessing strengths and motivators to determine career suitability and building confidence to ensure job readiness.


What are the challenges women are facing when thinking about returning to work?

One of the key challenges women face after being out of the workplace for a period of time is a lack of confidence. Women can feel out of touch and lack confidence in their capabilities. They may feel very different to the person they were pre-children, but tapped into the right way, this can bring many benefits to both the individual and organisations.

Women often talk about the’ juggling act’ of managing work and home life. Managing the demands of both can be a struggle particularly if there is no family support on hand. However, there are steps that can be taken to alleviate such challenges enabling you to thrive both at home and work.

The dreaded CV gap can cause concern when thinking about returning to work. It is easy to believe that we are the only person who has a significant gap in our CV. We tend to focus on all the things we have not done to build our career and we forget about all the skills and experience we built up before our break and of equal importance, those we have acquired since we left employment.

Women can lack clarity on what they would like to do when they return to work. Do you want to return to the same job? Transition to a new career? Re-train and re-skill? Start a new business? Work flexibly? There are so many options which can be overwhelming and a challenge in itself.  We spend more than 2,000 hours a year at work, its worth making sure that your chosen work path is enjoyable and fulfilling.


What are the benefits to organisations in supporting women to get back to the workplace?

Around 427,000 female professionals who are currently on a career break want to return to work in the future (PwC, Women In Work Index, 2019). This is a huge talent pool from which organisations could be recruiting and tapping into.

A recent survey by RSA (, found that “women bring empathy and intuition to leadership” with nearly two-thirds of respondents thinking that women contribute differently in the boardroom, compared to their male colleagues. Encouraging and supporting women back to the workplace can be of great benefit to the diversity and creativity of organisations.

Supporting women back to work ensures talent, knowledge and critical skills are retained within organisations. Without this, businesses will be forced to spend money replacing valuable skills and recruiting and training new people into the business. Supporting women back to work ensures top talent is developed and businesses retain their competitive edge.

What can organisations be doing to encourage women back to work?

 Depending on how long an employee has been away from the business, will affect how much time and effort needs to be given to support the transition process. Similarly how much the business has changed will be an important factor. There are some simple ways in which organisations can help women transition back to work ensuring the retention of top female talent.

Keeping in touch days are a great way for employees to maintain contact and keep up to date with business changes. They help employees stay connected to colleagues and the business.

Structured re-boarding plans ensure employees are fully supported with their return. Such a plan may include an update on the organisational strategy and structure; introductions to new key stakeholders; and time with line management to understand priorities particularly for those first 90 days.

Offering key female talent the opportunity to engage in a short term coaching programme can be a great retention tool. This provides an opportunity for the individual to feel supported during their transition back to work. They can gain emotional support to deal with the experience of leaving their child and juggling work and home life. It can help women to explore new skills and capabilities they can bring to work as well as opportunities to work differently.

Organisations need to get savvy about how to fill roles within the organisation and tap into this female talent pool. There has been a  rise of the ‘returnship’ where organisations offer placements for women who have taken a career break and were once in senior career roles.

Opportunities for flexible working have helped to support the balance between work and family, however, there is still room to look at different ways senior role requirements can be fulfilled that allow top female talent to be retained.



To learn more about supporting your employees to get back to work after an extended period or if you are a parent and would benefit from support in re-igniting your career contact Rebecca directly