By Sara Quettawala, co-lead of the returners workstream for the Diversity Project
The focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in financial services has grown exponentially over the past few years, and I think we can all agree this has been for all the right reasons.
In light of this, many organisations are putting significant effort behind initiatives to ensure they attract and retain diverse talent and create an environment where existing and prospective colleagues feel they can bring their authentic selves to work.
Ultimately, employers are looking for diversity of thought – or ‘cognitive diversity’ – which is when individuals have varied experiences and thought processes, as well as different ways of working – to enable better decision-making in the long term.
With that in mind, one might assume that hiring processes have become fair to facilitate organisations finding the most suitable people for the role. But this isn’t always the case. This limitation particularly applies to the integration of returners into the workforce, which represents a group of employees who have suffered as a result of having gaps on their CVs.
What is the ‘career break penalty’?
The Diversity Project defines a returner as someone who has taken a career break of 18 months or more and wants to rejoin the workforce. Programmes such as those initiated by Women Returners, an organisation focused on eliminating the career break penalty, predominantly for women, have been spearheading this mission across financial services since 2014.
According to Women in Stem, when returners try to re-enter the market they tend to be “labelled as risky candidates by recruiters biased against a lack of recent experience”.
Significant progress has been made in this area but it seems as though the life of these DEI-related programmes and initiatives, especially within financial services, is hinged on market conditions, which inextricably determine hiring budgets and practices.
According to Women Returners, the challenges faced by women rejoining the workplace costs the UK around £1.7bn a year in lost economic output, a statistic that speaks to the sheer scale of the problem.
The link to market conditions
Uncertain market conditions are a catalyst for apprehension among managers hiring during this time. They don’t want to lose the headcount so the pressure to get someone in quickly looms, and the person they onboard needs to be low risk, so they don’t need to be replaced later down the line.
To read the rest of this article visit the October edition of Portfolio Adviser Magazine