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How to help female advisers come back after a career break

The life skills gained or strengthened during time away should not be undervalued


Despite making great strides in recent years, care responsibilities still often fall more on women than men.

Maternity leave aside, women are more likely to look after children and/or elderly relatives – but these are by no means the only reasons female professionals take career breaks.

But coming back to work after, what can often be, a long period of time may be daunting.

To combat this, firms need a smooth process to make re-integration easier and ensure the returning professional feels valued.

Starting off on the right foot

The most vital part of the process, however, comes before the person decides to take a break.

The risk is that companies view employees taking time away as an inconvenience and something to be discourage.

But that should not be the case, Lee Georgs, chief operating officer, corporate at Redington, told International Adviser.

Women, or candidates in general, can learn valuable skills and gain a “fresh perspective” that could be useful for the businesses, she said.

Ensuring that an employee leaves on a positive note will not only mean that them returning is more likely but it will also make the process of ‘re-onboarding’ them easier.

Talk the talk

“Firms should make it clear that there are various arrangements that can be made to ensure that organic career progression is accessible to everybody, which includes agile working, part time, or any other flexible arrangements,” Tali Shlomo, people and engagement director at the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), told IA.

But the most important thing is to keep the conversation going, said Rebecca Aston, head of professional standards at the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI).

She told IA: “When a staff member is preparing to go on maternity/paternity leave, ask them how much contact they would like to have with colleagues whilst they are on leave.

“Some people may want to be kept up to date with what’s going on in the office, whilst others may prefer to focus solely on their family.”

Be proactive

Charlotte Kelso, associate director at Leodis Wealth, took two breaks during her career and found that being open about her needs helped her when returning to work both times.

“It is very daunting, but I have to say that I had very positive experiences. The first time was when I was newly qualified, and I had seven months leave.

“On my return, I was given the time I needed by my manager to get up to speed and I shadowed colleagues, who were all very supportive and this made things easier. The second time, I was on maternity leave for nine months.

“I asked to be kept up to date with procedures and changes via email and I requested regular telephone contact with my manager. All this really made things smoother for my return and I was able to pick up virtually where I left off.

“Taking a proactive approach to keep the lines of communication open really helped to reduce anxiety, increase confidence and kept further training to a minimum.”

Flexibility is paramount

Redington’s Georgs believes that people returning from a career break should be treated like anybody else.

“Retaining returner talent requires the same opportunities as anyone else would require: holding regular, open dialogue about career aspirations and development, compensating the individual fairly and providing them an environment where they can perform, excel and grow.”

But a degree of flexibility is also needed.

Louise Blair, head of human resources at Foster Denovo, told IA: “Huge progress has been made already, which has allowed flexible working to flourish. For example, firms can now use digital meeting software, or tools which allow for remote signing of documents.

“Such strides are revolutionising the way we work and in turn making it more accessible.”

The private banking and wealth management arm of Societe Generale, Kleinwort Hambros, has recently rolled out a ‘returnerns programme’ to help women to return to work.

Breaks are valuable

Taking time off during a their career can be just as professionally beneficial for women as not taking one, Cooper Abbott, chairman and president of Carillon Tower Advisers, told IA.

“Firms shouldn’t shy away from candidates who may have taken a break in their career for family reasons. Many areas of financial services offer flexibility that can be a benefit for both women and men.”

And the life skills gained or strengthened during such breaks shouldn’t be undervalued either.

Abbott added: “When it comes to [financial] advising, women bring their own unique life experiences along with their financial acumen.

“Women advisers are able to build strong relationships with key clients, including [female] clients, who may be more comfortable with an adviser who has shared some of their own life challenges and goals.”

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