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Wasting women returners’ potential


According to analysis of data by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), two-thirds of female professionals are estimated to be working below their potential when they return to work after career breaks.

Noting that 427,000 UK female professionals are currently estimated to be on a career break and likely to return to the workforce at some point, the PwC research calculated that three in five (249,000) will probably come back to lower-skilled roles.

These returning professionals lose out on £1.1 billion of earnings annually from the career break penalty, equivalent to £4000 for each woman.

PwC estimates that the multiplier effect from the increased earnings and spending power of these women (beyond the increase in their incomes) could drive a further increase in output in the UK economy of £1.7 billion.

Laura Hinton, Executive Board Member and Head of People at PwC, said that the business and economic arguments for getting more women back into high quality work following a career break are compelling.

“Our research shows the UK economy could see a £1.7 billion boost,” she went on, “women will get higher earnings and businesses will benefit from a stronger pipeline of female leaders and more diverse teams. Many women want to return, it is the system that needs to change.”

Reviewing the PwC report (available at, diversity consultancy, The Clear Company has urged employers to better embrace women returning from career breaks in order to improve both their reputations and profits.

Arguing that the figures speak for themselves, The Clear Company Director Kate Headley said: “In this modern world it’s almost inconceivable that so many females re-entering employment from a career break still find themselves side-lined into lower-skilled and lesser-paid roles — particularly given the improvements to challenges such as childcare with the introduction of shared parental leave.”

Last reviewed 13 December 2016

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