Returnship Success Stories With Flexible Companies

30th Mar 2023

Returnships are short-term, well-paid internships for professional women returning to work in mid to senior-level roles after an extended career break. Choosing a Returnship with a flexible company empowers talented women to restart their careers by combining flexible working with home commitments. Returnships give women returning to work the opportunity to update skills, receive coaching and quickly get back to business at the management levels they deserve. 

Many high-calibre women returning to work after a long career break are in their 40s and 50s, bringing maturity and a wealth of experience into the workplace. Flexible companies compete to recruit this new female talent pool into Flexible Returnships. As a result, we are seeing more women in leadership positions across a range of organisations such as Balfour Beatty, Virgin Media, the BBC, Tesla, VISA and the Civil Service.

In this blog, we look at the success stories of two professional women returning to work, re-entering their careers with Returnships that offer flexible working.

Returnship success stories

SANDRA, Project Manager. Joined Dell’s 5-month Returnship program as a woman returning to work after a 17-year extended career break:

Sandra had a wealth of experience as a Project Manager, responsible for the life cycles of global networks in the UK, Europe and the USA. But long hours, no flexible working opportunities and extensive travel meant she couldn’t spend enough time with her young children. She made the difficult decision to have a career break. During her time away, Sandra gained valuable life skills as a resourceful, multi-tasking mum, volunteering at her local school and helping her husband with his business. 

Several family moves and life events later, Sandra was ready to return to work but knew she needed to up-skill and re-establish networks when her applications for Project Management positions were rejected, despite her years of previous experience in the sector. She was in leadership when she left work all those years ago, but finding a route back to a similar management role with flexible working to balance home commitments, was proving impossible.

Then she heard about Dell’s Returnship program for women returning to work, called “Path Forward”, and was onboarded as a Project Manager in 2021. Dell’s Flexible working Returnship provided Sandra with abundant support, mentoring and opportunities to learn. Importantly, she was able to combine family commitments with a choice of remote, part-time or hybrid work as Dell is a flexible company. Sandra received the following support in her 5-month Returnship:

  • Individualised Returnship training programme with flexible working
  • Worked alongside her primary mentor 3 times a week over 5 months – this mentor was another Project Manager who had been with Dell for 25 years.
  • Regular HR-related onboarding with her local mentor.
  • Met with her Director at least once a week.
  • Regular one-hour workshops alongside other women returning to work, with experts in the subject focus
  • Group training session every 2 weeks with speakers updating on key business areas
  • Flexible working and Friday afternoons free to up-skill with a wealth of self-learning courses for women returning to work
After her Returnship, Sandra was offered a permanent, full-time role as a Project Manager for Dell. With Dell's flexible working culture, she enjoys career success whilst being a mum.

CARMEN, Macro-Economist. Joined Morgan Stanley’s 3-month Returnship program as a woman returning to work after a 7-year extended career break:

Carmen had been an Economist in the financial sector for 15 years when she took a career break to look after her three children. She enjoyed her position in research at a bank, but it was a demanding full-time role which involved travelling for long periods. She ideally wanted to work flexible hours or part-time, but the bank did not have a flexible working culture, and she felt she had no choice but to take a career break.

7 years later, when her youngest began secondary school, Carmen was ready to return to business and hoped to re-enter at a senior level that allowed some flexible working. However, she found a stigma attached to women returning to work after long CV breaks. Financial firms were interested in something other than the valuable experiences she had collected while away, for instance, as a school governor. As a woman returning to work, she was made to justify her long CV gap in interviews and was rejected for well-qualified roles. Her qualifications and 15 years in the financial sector seemed to count for nothing.

Carmen found the solution to bridging the gap when she joined Morgan Stanley’s 3-month Returnship program for women returning to work. She now has a permanent senior management role at the firm, with flexible working as the norm. During her Returnship, Carmen met regularly with her managers, who supported women returning to work; she spent time in different departments and received the training needed to up-skill. Carmen was also fortunate to work on a deliverable report in the sustainable investment field during her Returnship. 

Morgan Stanley is a flexible company with a flexible working culture, so Carmen now combines time with her family and a demanding management role that she loves. Of the 19 participants in her Returnship cohort (mostly women returning to work after long career breaks), 13 were offered permanent mid or senior positions at Morgan Stanley with flexible working.