Stay-at-home moms– Don’t fall for the chatter that “opting out” of the workforce to raise kids sounds the death knell for your career. It is possible to get back in. The U.S. unemployment rate fell to a seven-year low in August– 5.1%. The jobs are there; it’s just a matter of finding one that is right for you.
Moms who have been out of the workforce for a while face a host of challenges, from explaining gaps in their resume to brushing up on skills to negotiating salaries. Wynn Burkett, a San Francisco-based career coach who runs “Getting Back in the Game” workshops for moms re-entering the workforce, says the biggest obstacle women face is loss of confidence.
“One of the biggest fears women have is feeling obsolete, like their previous skills and experiences are no longer relevant,” explains Burkett. “Stay-at-home moms often ask themselves, ‘Do I still have what it takes to be successful in the workplace?'”
While job hunting may seem like a daunting task, here are 10 practical steps you can take to help you decide what you want to do in your “next act” and how to get there.
1. Perform a self-assessment.
This means thinking deeply about why you want to go back to work. Whether you’ve been out for two years or ten, you need to assess what it is that you want and expect from your next job, or possible career. Are you going back to work for the money? To be in the presence of other adults? Because you want to find more meaning in your life? Your reasons for working at this stage in your life may not be the same ones that drove you in your pre-baby years.
In today’s world, having two kids and a full-time job is a lot for most women to handle. So when I listened to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki talk about how she manages raising five kids — ages 8 months to 15 years old— while running a multi-billion dollar company, I wanted to bow down and kiss the ground on which she walks.
Wojcicki shared the stage with actress and founder of The Honest Company Jessica Alba and CBS This Morning anchor Gayle King at the Women in Leadership Keynote at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference in San Francisco this week.
King, who moderated the discussion, quipped, “Five kids by the same husband? I love hearing that.”
The inaugural Women’s Leadership Summit was Salesforce’s innovative approach to continuing the conversation on how to advance women in the workplace and close the gender gap in technology. In addition to Wojcicki and Alba, other influential women took the stage throughout the conference, including Academy Award winner & activist Patricia Arquette, CoderDojo CEO Mary Moloney, and Re/code’s Kara Swisher.
Rather than bemoan “why women still can’t have it all,” Wojcicki and Alba discussed how to balance work and family and what still needs to change to attract and retain more women in tech.
“Computer science has a reputation that isn’t accurate and has scared away a lot of women,” said Wojcicki. “When you think of computers, Silicon Valley and startups, you think of a bunch of guys sitting at computers.”
Indeed, television shows like Silicon Valley and The Big Bang Theory have helped perpetuate the stereotype of the nerdy “boy genius” programmer, or “brogrammer,” coding alone in a dark room into the wee hours of the night.
At this year’s Grace Hopper Celebration in Houston, I had the opportunity to sit down with Telle Whitney, the CEO and President of the Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology, to discuss the successes and challenges that women in tech face, and why this year is “our time to lead.” A computer scientist by training, Whitney cofounded the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing with Anita Borg in 1994. This year’s event hosted a record 12,000 attendees, a 50% jump from last year, and included women from academia, government and the tech industry.
Samantha: Tell me why you decided to name the Grace Hopper conference a “celebration” of women in tech?
Telle: We founded the Grace Hopper Celebration in 1994. At the time, there was a lot of angst about the issues of women in technology, and we purposefully wanted it to be a celebration — celebrating the work women are doing in the computing area.
Samantha: That was 21 years ago. How has the conference changed since then?
Telle: When we started the conference, we had about 500 women attending. Today, we have 12,000 women from 66 countries and 1000 different organizations. The topic of women in technology has become front of mind. The conference has become a cornerstone of the work that women in tech are doing today.
Samantha: What has changed for women in computing and technology since 1994?