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How organisations and individuals can ease the return-to-work ‘sticky door’

Last week Nemat Shafik, the new Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, proposed that instead of breaking the ‘glass ceiling’ to reach senior levels, women need to push through the ‘sticky door’:

women and girls should not look up to a glass ceiling but switch their gaze straight ahead to a “sticky door” which is blocking women from breaking through. It helps if there are allies on the other side pulling the handle too, … But it is not everything – it’s mainly up to women to put their shoulders to the door and give it a hard shove.”
Interview of Nemat Shafik with Jane Merrick, The Independent, 19/3/14

This metaphor definitely feels more possible and a lot less painful than breaking a glass ceiling. I think it works just as well for professional women returning to work after a long career break as for women employees aiming for Board level …
How organisations can ease the door
We need ‘allies on the other side pulling the handle’. Our allies are organisations which recognise the value of this neglected pool of highly-qualified and experienced senior women and are prepared to facilitate their re-entry into the workforce in practical ways:
  • developing specific recruitment channels to get round the HR ‘CV gap’ screening block
  • offering returning professional internships (returnships) as a targeted route back.
  • providing coaching & mentoring for the transition period
  • keeping in touch with alumnae while they’ve left the workplace so they feel the door is still open!
How individuals can ease the door
And returning women need to give a ‘hard shove’. No-one says that getting back into a satisfying and fulfilling role after a long time out is easy. But it is possible if:
Our role 
At Women Returners, we recognise the return-to-work door is still very sticky and we’re aiming to add some oil to ease it up. We’re encouraging you to keep shoving and organisations to pull harder!
(OK, I’ve taken the metaphor as far as I can now …)
Posted by Julianne