There’s a massive problem facing the American workforce: most jobs don’t allow people to balance professional obligations with caretaking responsibilities for children or aging parents. Women in particular face major challenges finding and maintaining fulfilling professional roles, especially if they take a break from formal work to raise children. As a result, we’re tragically under-using a highly qualified, experienced, wise, and flexible labor pool, and wasting economic value at a time when we need it most.
Women who are able to find flexible roles or positions at fulfilling organizations are often not utilized in a way that effectively utilizes their core competencies. Several of the recent participants in our Women's Program gave examples of volunteer positions at their children's schools or on nonprofit boards, where they were asked to make fundraising calls, throw dinner parties, and otherwise perform generalized tasks that disregarded their previous education and professional experience. The problem becomes two-sided: On one side, an under-utilized, high-potential workforce, and on the other, a bounty of organizations who still are in desperate need of professional, high-capacity employees. How do we ensure that the two find one another?
The social sector (broadly defined as purpose-driven organizations offering solutions for social issues) is actually very well-suited for these women. Social sector organizations with limited revenues are more likely to allow part-time or flexible work schedules to accommodate great talent. The social sector also offers the purposeful, meaningful work that many women require to justify the sacrifices of working outside the home.
Inspiring Capital (a woman-owned social venture and certified B Corp) is uniquely positioned between these social sector organizations and several pipelines of professional talent. Seeing this systemic failure to engage the rich talent pool, alongside the huge need for professional talent in the social sector, Inspiring Capital adapted its MBA Summer Fellowship to create a professional training program for women. The program provides women with the confidence, sector knowledge, and connections to pursue careers in the social sector.
Last Spring, nine women participated in a two-day pilot, and provided input for IC to build a five-week, 35-hour version. On November 17, the first cohort of 10 women completed the full-length program. The participants were between 35 and 55, with degrees ranging from BA/BS to MBAs and JDs, and 2-17 years out of the workforce. For details on the programming and their feedback, check out our blog summary.
You have clearly identified a niche with this group, some of which speaks to the pervasive inequities in a system that fails to reward/recognize women in all that we do, and leaves so many individuals flailing about as if it’s ‘their fault.’" - Rachel Yassky, 2015 Pilot Program Participant
At the end of January, we will run our next program and applications are already coming in. We have extended the program to run over 6 weeks, in order to shorten each day's programming to accommodate women with afternoon commitments. Women who complete the program will gain access to professional on-ramps in a variety of ways-- through potential consulting or full-time placements at an Inspiring Capital client, or through a series of curated introductions to members of our extensive network of social enterprises, nonprofits, impact investors, and more.
We're still a long way from seeing the kind of societal shift it will take for women to truly be fully engaged in the American workforce, but for now, cohort by cohort, we're happy to be a part of the change.