A career “break” on the CV continues to be anathema to hiring teams. The “motherhood break” in particular is often the biggest hurdle for women trying to find their way back to a corporate career. There are of course sporadic attempts to create “opportunities” for mothers trying to come back to work, but those are often in the do-good domain—almost like a CSR activity!
Truth be told, motherhood is probably among the toughest jobs on earth as well as a crash course in many important skills that are critical at almost every workplace. Isn’t it strange then that a motherhood “career break” on the résumé is often seen as a handicap?
What can candidates do?
For starters, start including the “motherhood experience” in your CV, just like you would list your other stints. If your other work experience has sections like Roles, Responsibilities, Milestones, etc., have those for the Motherhood experience as well.
Instead of feeling apologetic about the “motherhood break”, be proud of it. Not only have you spent energy and time in giving a promising start in life to a human being (or two or three), but you have also undergone the best on-the-job training on earth at your own expense! Think about how motherhood has changed you as a person for the better. Think of the valuable skills you’ve gained in the process. Articulate your thoughts. Practise speaking and writing about those. Bring those thoughts into interviews.
What can employers do?
First off, sensitize people involved in the hiring process, especially the ones who interview candidates. Chances are there are many conscious and unconscious biases acting as filters in the hiring process, preventing mothers from getting a fair chance or penalizing them for a “break” that has actually been a skill-enhancer. Make an attempt to remove those one by one. Even when the team is unable to hire a candidate for a position, it’s important that the steps of the hiring process boost the morale of the candidate instead of breaking it.
Think of the skills and experience required for every role. Chances are you will discover a large overlap of those with the ones that women pick up in their motherhood role. Say, you’re hiring for a ‘Customer Associate Director’ position. Besides the usual skills and similar past experience, figure out the role that ‘Empathy’ plays in that job. Think about whether a mother is likely to have that in abundance. Look at your evaluation criteria to see whether you’ve accounted for it. It’s very likely that you will start seeing the role in a new light. The only caveat is that you should not start practising some sort of “reverse discrimination” in the process.
Make it a movement
The perception of motherhood as a unique skill-enhancer has to become mainstream. Start speaking about it. Bring it to discussions. Write about it in articles, blogposts and social media posts. Use the hashtag #jobcodemotherhood in your written pieces. This has to become a movement in order to move the needle!