A week ago, domain registrar GoDaddy, online education platform Coursera, grocery delivery startup Instacart, customer service software provider Zendesk, marketing technology company DemandBase and content-distribution network CloudFlare all announced “returnships” for mid-career professionals who want to get back to their jobs. (Click any of those links, and you’ll see the jobs in question listed at right.)
Path Forward already has similar programs in place at several other businesses including Return Path, PayPal and ReadyTalk. Eighty percent of women who took part in the program were offered jobs where they interned, and of that number, 90 percent are now employed. And the returnship concept isn’t new—Goldman Sachs (see below) trademarked the term eight years ago.
These latest companies will offer between 20-30 returnships for tech professionals with at least five years of experience and who have been “out of the game” for at least two years. (Don’t worry, guys—men are eligible for this program, too.) According to an article on Fortune.com, a study published by the Center for Talent Innovation in 2010 found that 31 percent of experienced professional women voluntarily left their jobs for an average of 2.7 years. While almost 90 percent of those women said they wanted to return to their careers, only 73 percent did so, and only 40 percent found full-time work.
There’s no promise of a guaranteed gig at the end of a returnship, but it creates opportunities for people who took some time out of the workforce.
“Through our program, we connect companies with awesome talent that often gets overlooked,” Path Forward Executive Director Tami Forman told Fortune. “Our work with the participants gives them the chance to support each other and gives them the tools to successfully restart their professional lives.”
There are several factors at work here. Companies are searching for top tech talent (and here you get employees with previous experience), they would like to increase the number of women in their companies, and they aim to place women back into quality roles where their talents are valued.
“There’s a troubling trend where the punishment doesn’t fit the crime,” Laura Sherbin, director of research at the Center for Talent Innovation, said in Forbes. “Women sacrifice their careers to serve as caregivers and then they have a long, uphill struggle to return. When they do come back, they’re working at lower levels, often for less pay.”
Gender inequality, to be sure. Look at how men dominate the tech sector, in this chart from IBTimes:
Here’s an example of the returnship program and how it applies to financial heavyweight Goldman Sachs and to PayPal: