Focus: People Management - Returning mothers 'choose charities'

Graham Willgoss,

Not-for-profit sector a favourite for women returning from childcare breaks.

Women returning to work after taking a career break to have children prefer to work for charities, according to recruitment service Women Like Us.

The not-for-profit agency says 44 per cent of employers who have recruited through it are from the voluntary sector, 37 per cent are small and medium-sized enterprises and 19 per cent are from the public sector.

"When women return to work, the voluntary sector scores highly on their preference list," says Emma Stewart, director of Women Like Us. "They have often had careers in the corporate sector before they had children, but now, having spent time at home, they want to contribute to their communities by working for local voluntary and community organisations.

"Charities as employers are more comfortable than most with offering flexible work, which puts them in a good position to benefit from this untapped talent pool of women returners," says Stewart. "But we often find that these women have a lack of confidence, contacts and opportunities to work both flexibly and locally that prevent them from going back - and employers struggle to reach them."

Women Like Us, which operates in north and central London, has found employment for 650 women since it launched last June. It runs coaching and skills workshops as well as careers seminars to help women find work.

It also deploys representatives at school gates to encourage mothers who are collecting their children to find employment that fits around the school day.

"Once their child starts school, for many women the school becomes the heart of their local community and a time when many suddenly find themselves with time in the middle of the day," says Stewart.

"Recruiting from the school gate is an effective way to reach the women we are looking for."

Cathy Woodman, a mother of two from north London, works as a dinner lady at the TreeHouse Trust's school for autistic children in Muswell Hill.

She found out about Women Like Us from leaflets distributed at her children's school.

"My background is in publishing, but I'd been at home for three years since my eldest started school," she says. "My main criteria for the job was that it was something close to home that was unstressful and could fit around the school day. It was important that TreeHouse was able to offer that flexibility."

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