CEO and Co-Founder, Women Returners
One key step to increasing gender balance in tech is addressing the personal and recruitment barriers that prevent experienced female professionals returning after career breaks.
As Irish tech hiring is expected to grow by 42%, and employers are increasingly stating that diversity is a priority, one group of skilled and diverse candidates is being shut out of opportunities. Every year, large numbers of qualified and experienced female tech professionals pause their careers, typically for caring reasons. When they want or need to return to work, they face multiple challenges.
Personal and recruitment barriers
“It had been 14 years since I had been near an IT project. I had no idea where to start. I wasn’t convinced any prospective employer would choose my CV.” Previously a Senior IT Manager, Alice’s self-doubts after a break to raise her three children nearly stopped her from even trying to resume her tech career.
This fragile self-confidence, experienced by many talented returners, is compounded when they re-enter the job market. Widespread recruitment bias against candidates without recent experience, particularly for technical roles, means that few returners get past a CV screen. Those who do find that assessments are tailored for people with up-to-date skills and knowledge.
The volume and speed of the current tech hiring surge is creating additional hurdles. Under pressure to fill multiple roles, recruiters prioritise more polished candidates who they see as less risky and able to ‘hit the ground running.’
Every year, large numbers of qualified and experienced female tech professionals pause their careers, typically for caring reasons.
Supported routes back to work
There are proven solutions to tackle this ‘career break penalty’. Since their introduction to the UK and Ireland in the mid-2010s, corporate returner programmes have provided a supported route back to mid-to-senior level roles for hundreds of STEM women. By ringfencing roles, tailoring assessments and providing transition support, Irish employers such as Accenture and Expleo have targeted and re-integrated talented women returning to tech.
Alice is now thriving back at work thanks to a returner programme. More forward-thinking STEM employers are needed to harness this wasted talent pool, filling skills gaps and helping to build a more inclusive and diverse workforce post-pandemic.