This week we celebrate International Women’s Day. The 2017 theme is #BeBoldForChange and calls upon women and men to “help forge a better working world” that includes all, more equally.

We don’t need to look far for people doing this well.

Over 500 smart, seasoned, skilled, and committed women have participated in ReBoot Accel programs and most indicate that having a positive social impact is a very important criteria for their next stage career choice. And they are doing just that, in large corporations, non-profits, educational institutions, start-ups, and in their communities. How? By rewriting the workplace narrative and breaking down bias’ as the first generation of educated experienced women to reenter the workforce, in large numbers, after taking a career pause for caregiving.

Linda Wells, founder of TalentReconnect reminds us that this is an opportunity and a responsibility, “sexism is clearly alive and well, in varying grades. Some if it is unconscious bias even by well-intentioned people. Other examples of it are overt and purposefully harmful.”

“But as returners, we can help our cause by jumping in with both feet and being present and committed (if even part-time). We feed the sexism if we do anything less and provide an opportunity to diminish the perception of our potential impact and subsequently those who come behind us.”

How do we do this?

One of the distinct privileges we have at ReBoot Accel is hearing the stories, pain points, and successes of our client directly; and then accompanying her personally through life transitions, career accelerator training, and her return to work journey.

For some, that means assistance in the documentation of her job search efforts during divorce proceedings. For others, supporting her through career adjustments due to early widowhood or recovery from major illness or job loss. For many, it means helping her recognize and reframe her marketable job skills, and then adding to them, so she can confidently write and pitch a compelling new narrative reflecting who she is now and where she wants and needs to go next.

At ReBoot Accel, we believe that if workplace inclusion is to be made whole, it must be grounded in respect for the dignity of all employees, be oriented toward employee retention through age and stage, and value the unique contributions of the older and returning worker.

There is new work to be done.

Based on her new research, Lisen Stromberg, author of Work, Pause, Thrive: How to Pause for Parenthood Without Killing Your Career argues that we are currently experiencing not just a single ‘Day Without Women’, but a 365 day/year often involuntary walkout due to limited access to paid parental leave, the high cost of child care, inflexible work structures, and the 24/7 nature of the modern workplace.

“As a result,” Stromberg writes, “we are seeing trailblazing women innovate their own non-linear path that enables them to integrate kids with careers.”

Sallie Krawcheck, CEO and CoFounder of Ellevest, also points to the pursuit of new options as real options in her book, Own It: The Power of Women at Work.

“The business world is not static,” says Krawcheck. “If it were then we’d have to continue to play the game the same way that we have, but things are changing—driven by technology—at a quite rapid rate. Whereas before, if there were issues in the workplace, a woman had a choice: Stay gutted out, go without information to another company, or go home. Today, there’s a fourth really important choice, which is start your own thing.”

Ah, technology. It’s not always easy.

Research shows 43% of working mothers pause their careers for caregiving and 90% of them need and want to return; but when initiating their own onramp after prioritizing other’s needs and education, they can encounter unfamiliar language, practices, and technologies during the research and interview process; and in the rapidly changing workplace. Add sexism and ageism (and other ‘isms) to techism, and many feel too paralyzed to proceed.

Nancy McSharry Jensen, ReBoot Accel’s Seattle Director relates, and writes of her reentry experience, “Moore’s Law seems to have an analogous corollary when you take a break from work in tech.

For every year you step back, you lose 2 years-worth of expertise. Things change fast. Four years out, I might as well be living in a cave.

During my interview loop, I nodded sagely and panicked internally as interviewers mentioned tools and technologies that I was vaguely aware of but hadn’t had the opportunity to use. That said, my business, product, and marketing fundamentals are sound. My track record is proven. A simple skills brush-up would fix any gaps quickly.” Read more of Nancy’s reentry story here.

We must per$ist.

What happens to women in the long term? Across all age groups, women have considerably less income in retirement than men, according to a report from the National Institute on Retirement Security, “for women age 65 and older, their income is typically 25 percent lower than that of men. As men and women age, the gap widens to 44 percent by age 80.”

In a recent NYT article titled “Money Worries for Retired Women”, Cindy Hounsell, founder and president of the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement is quoted warning, “financial problems in retirement and senior debt arise with insufficient income as a result of lower lifetime earnings and less in savings, cost of family caregiving and divorce.”

Moreover, “women often put their own needs last,” Ms. Hounsell said. They often choose to save for a child’s education over their own retirement, for example, or work in a family business for no pay.

Does this raise a red flag?

It should. Because Pew Research shows most of us (American women) will survive our partners and go it solo for a period of our lengthening lives. This will require many of us to work longer for fulfillment and financial reasons. Therefore, this earnings gap should unite women, and the men who love them, in efforts and advocacy to diminish it by developing better work-life solutions that enable women to stay in and return to the workforce if they need and choose, without compromising care for the next generation.

Will this be a miss? Or is it THE opportunity?

Diane Flynn, founder of ReBoot Accel stresses that this is not just a women’s, parent or partisan issue, it’s a global economic opportunity, noting the McKinsey report, The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth, which also found “if women—who account for half the world’s working-age population—do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer.”

To bring it home, McKinsey also reported that 10% more women in the US workforce could result in a $2.1 trillion dollar boost to the US economy. Let’s amplify that:

10% MORE WOMEN IN THE US WORKFORCE =  A TWO TRILLION DOLLAR US ECONOMIC BOOST.

Now, isn’t that something we can all work on, together? Let’s be #BeBoldForChange.

We thank our contributors to this International Women’s Day blog post and look forward to collaborating with these thought leaders and return-to-work advocates as we continue to celebrate women and men around the world in March.

  1. Karen Catlin: The Interview Questions A Returner Can Ask To Reveal a Company’s Culture
  2. Susan RoAne: How a Returner Can Beat the ‘Ism’s’ Through Savvy Networking
  3. Sandy Jones-Kaminski: The Particularly Important Role of Personal Branding for the Returner

ReBoot Accel educates, inspires, and catalyzes women to restart their careers, build businesses, dream bigger and pursue lives of impact. We do this through high tech | high touch return-to-work training programs. Each career accelerator is a carefully curated 32 hour curriculum tailored to market by which women get current in essential office and job search tech skills, grow their professional networks, and strengthen their confidence.

Current. Connected. Confident. To return to work.

ReBoot offers 1 Week Immersion and 8 Week/once a week Career Accelerator sessions in Silicon Valley, Seattle, and Los Angeles with lecture/demos, hands-on technical training, workshopping and one-on-ones with subject experts, accountability partnerships, and a community focus. Our ReBoot Connect membership programs in Silicon Valley and Seattle, and soon in Chicago, LA, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Boston offer women on-going education and professional skill development opportunities in community with engaged likeminded women.

Beth Kawasaki on Email
Beth Kawasaki
Prior to ReBoot Accel, Beth went from the marketing and advertising management of big brands at P&G, Apple Computer, and Levi Strauss to raising a family, earning her M.A. in theology and gender justice issues, and engaging in advocacy work on behalf of marginalized girls and women in developing countries and communities.

Beth believes in the life long career and social impact potential of women and is committed to helping them get current, connected, and confident to return to the paid workplace.

About Beth Kawasaki

Prior to ReBoot Accel, Beth went from the marketing and advertising management of big brands at P&G, Apple Computer, and Levi Strauss to raising a family, earning her M.A. in theology and gender justice issues, and engaging in advocacy work on behalf of marginalized girls and women in developing countries and communities. Beth believes in the life long career and social impact potential of women and is committed to helping them get current, connected, and confident to return to the paid workplace.

3 thoughts on “On International Women’s Day. Something We Can All Work On, Together.

    1. Yes Sandy. It’s a staggering statistic and opportunity. And something that can unite us rather than divide us.

  1. I work with a roster of brilliant female composers and musicians from across the globe, whose career trajectory and output of music projects is similarly affected by juggling their work and life demands. I’d love to see the media realize this and give coverage to female artists even if they are not as famous as their male counterparts, for their stories are often more interesting, their music & art more textured!

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