Big Picture

5 tips for mums returning to the workforce

Roxanne Calder

Being a mother and parent is one of the most important jobs in the world. Motherhood also transforms many women into better leaders, otherwise known as ‘power moms’. Yet, the pandemic attached a penalty to such skills, with over two million women across the globe, forced to leave the workforce during COVID-19. 

If contemplating a return to work, your timing could not be better! Shrug off concerns, worries or otherwise and think of the WW1 recruitment posters, ‘your country needs you!’. Skilled workers are in dearth supply. Australia’s job vacancies are at accelerated highs, and our unemployment rate of 3.9% at a record low is tipped to drop further. 

The underemployment rate has also decreased to an incredible low of 5.7%. The underemployment rate depicts those employed but not using their full skill set. During COVID-19, this rate peaked at 13.6% as people scrambled, grateful to take any job. And guess what, in days gone by, return to work mums held chair within the underemployed, taking on roles below skill and talent levels. 

Opportunities may be abundant, but the other big hurdle could be you. Returning to work after any time off, parental leave, or other is daunting, but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

  1. Goals and priorities.
    It is not a matter of just applying for the same job you left, as your goals have likely changed. What are these now, and what do you need from your new job and employer? You may have been chasing career advancements before and were content to put in the hours and travel if needed. But are these goals aligned with your new life priorities? Perhaps they are, but you need additional support to get you there. Either way, understand your goals and what you need to succeed at work and home. The importance of family and recognising limitations and boundaries were brought home to us working through the pandemic! 
  2. Flexibility.
    It is the new standard. Depending upon the nature of your role, most businesses offer some form of flexibility. Whether working from home, hybrid, or reduced hours, it is all on offer. The skills shortage put organisations on notice to accommodate their workforce as much as possible. Adjustments are usually expected when transitioning back to work, whether it is baby number one or seven. The new workplace flexibility makes that transition a little easier! 
  3. Technology.
    Our world is changing at a rapid pace, and understanding technology is key to remaining employable. No matter the job you do, technology is disrupting and inserting itself in every area. Even if you have had minimal time out of the workforce, technology changes have been guaranteed in your industry. Read industry news, reach out to your network, and see what is needed to upskill and keep abreast. 
  4. Your CV.
    Have it ready to go! The employment space is lightning fast. Companies across the globe have accelerated their recruitment procedures. Think again if contemplating an idle stroll and perusal of the job market. Gone are lead times of weeks and months. The moment your toe tips into the employment pool, prepare for a speedy process of interviews, offers and contracts. Some companies offer jobs within forty-eight hours of interviewing. Do not be deterred by the pace; it is the new normal. But be prepared to reciprocate. Delays and dallying could send the wrong impression, or worse, the job offer being withdrawn.
  5. Your stay-at-home time is still work!
    In fact, consider your time as building transferable skills. I have met many return-to-work mums who have taken ten plus years out of the workforce and excelled at the interview and landed their dream job. It was all in their mindset. They translated the skills acquired from unpaid work at home into transferable attributes. Time and crisis management, resourcefulness, organisational, decision making, and prioritising skills are well-honed and tested when juggling a family. Add the pandemic, lockdowns, home-schooling, and these skills are heightened and further polished. Oh, did I mention the hours and work ethic! 

It is not just me who thinks our return-to-work mums are needed in our workforce; so does the New South Wales government. In the recent state budget, they added $32 million in funding to provide wraparound support for women to return to work. The opportunity has never been better, and the platform never so easy! 

The pandemic and lockdowns blurred the line between family and work and gave rise to more compassion for working mums. The transformative power seen in every organisation is based not only on nurturing better individual values but also on fostering equality, so everyone wins, regardless of gender, age or background!


Written by Roxanne Calder.
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Roxanne Calder
Roxanne Calder, the author of ‘Employable – 7 Attributes to Assuring Your Working Future’ (Major Street $29.95), is the founder and managing director of EST10 – one of Sydney’s most successful administration recruitment agencies. Roxanne is passionate about uncovering people’s potential and watching their careers soar.


Roxanne Calder is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. You can follow her on LinkedIn.