June 10

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Returning to the Workforce After Being a Stay-At-Home Parent

By Charlie Fletcher

June 10, 2021

bias, experience, job, job interview, Parent, parenting, return to work, stay at home, stay at home parent, workforce, workforce challenges

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Being a stay-at-home parent is a full-time job on its own. But, if your kids are older and you’re thinking about returning to the workforce, you might have a harder time than expected. 

A 2018 study found that employers are hesitant to hire parents who chose to stay at home to raise their children, even showing a bias against them. The study discovered that stay-at-home moms are half as likely to land a job interview as mothers who had previously been laid off. This “mommy gap bias” showed that only 4.9% of stay-at-home mothers were called back for an interview, compared to 9.7% of unemployed moms, and 15.3% of working mothers. 

That’s probably not what you want to hear if you want to get back into the workforce. But, whether you just went through a divorce and need the income, you miss the fast pace of the working world, or you want to challenge yourself, it’s not impossible to land a job again. It just might be more of an uphill battle. 

Why is There a Bias?

So, why is the anti-mom bias such a problem in the workforce today?

Some of it is based in reality. Employers may have had negative experiences with working mothers in the past. As a parent, you know how easy it is for your schedule to fill up or to become distracted by your kids’ activities. That can cause some parents to want to cut back at work, or even make it harder for them to do their jobs effectively. An employer who has seen that situation first-hand might be hesitant to hire another mother. 

Some of the bias, however, is just that – assumptions not rooted in reality. 

Even if an employer had a negative experience with a parent in the past, holding that against every parent wanting a job is discriminatory and unfair. Unfortunately, until employers can look at each prospective employee as an individual and not a replica of someone from the past, this bias will likely continue to be a problem. 

How You Can Stand Out

The best way to get hired when you’re returning to the workforce is to fight against the bias of parents in the workplace. One of the first things you should do is to network. A lot of the business world remains political. Many times, “who you know” will at least allow you to get your foot in the door. Thankfully, networking is relatively easy nowadays. You can connect with other professionals online by: 

  • Using existing networks like LinkedIn to build your portfolio
  • Taking advantage of social media networking
  • Attending virtual events/meetups
  • Eventually tapping into your online network for help and referrals

In addition to building up a strong network, you should also focus on building a strong resume. The most obvious place to start is by making sure it’s up-to-date. If you haven’t worked in a while, you might want to consider listing credible references that can be contacted by a potential employer. Instead of choosing your aunt or your best friend, a good practice is to list people to whom you reported during your previous jobs. The more clout a reference has, the better, so choose carefully. They could be your ticket to standing out above another competitor for a job. 

Gaining Experience Outside of Work

If you’re still having a hard time getting hired (even with a stellar resume), there are things you can do to gain experience and hone your skills without a job. For starters, it might be time to consider going back to school. Getting a graduate degree like an MBA is perfect for when you want a career change. It’s a versatile degree that can help you break into a variety of industries, including: 

  • Healthcare
  • Commerce
  • Finance
  • Marketing
  • International business

Taking classes or going back to school is easier than ever thanks to technology. The online learning industry is projected to reach over $370 billion by 2026, largely fueled by necessary changes made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Finding classes online that fit your needs will make it easy to get the education you need on your own time, and even on a budget. 

It’s also a good idea to gain hands-on experience if you’re interested in a particular field. For example, if you want to be a writer, graphic designer, or even an assistant, try dipping your toes into the gig economy. Working as a freelancer is a great way to get better at what you do and build up a practical portfolio. But, whether you only plan on freelancing for a while or if it becomes a full-time career, make sure you’re taking care of your bookkeeping needs and invoicing with helpful software. 

The “mommy gap bias” may be against you as you try to return to the workforce. But, by keeping these tips in mind you can fight back against it and have a better chance at landing the job you deserve. Doing so can help to change the overall workforce environment and eventually eliminate the bias. 

About the author 

Charlie Fletcher

Charlie Fletcher is a writer from the Pacific Northwest who enjoys listening to podcasts, tending to her plants, and bingeing reality tv. She has a passion for social justice, workplace issues, and mental health, which you can read more about by visiting her portfolio. You can also connect with her on LinkedIn.

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