Vodafone is launching a new programme designed to provide people who have taken a career break, many of them likely to be women who have quit their jobs to raise a family, with a way of returning to work.
Vodafone's "ReConnect" programme will be rolled out in 26 countries and give 1,000 recruits the chance to return to work on a full-time or flexible basis. Employees on the programme with also be offered in-work training to "refresh and enhance skills". The initiative will include "unconscious bias training" for hiring managers.
Two years ago, Vodafone became one of the first companies in the world to offer female staff the same amount of maternity leave - 16 weeks fully-paid maternity leave, as well as full pay for a 30-hour week for the first six months after they return to work - regardless of where in the world they worked and despite the fact that some countries do not mandate it. The policy applies in every one of the 30 companies in which Vodafone operates, including in Africa, the Middle East, the Asia-Pacific region, Europe and the US.
There are 96m skilled women around the world aged between 30 and 54 who are currently on career breaks, according to data from KPMG. Of these, roughly 55m have gained experience to middle management level or higher. If they all returned to the workforce, it would provide a £151bn boost to the global economy each year. Vodafone estimates that around three-quarters of women who are currently on a career break would like to return to work.
Vodafone says that around 27pc of its managers are women, a ratio it would like to increase past the 30pc mark over the next three years. Serpil Timuray, the company's chief commercial operations and strategy officer and the most senior woman at Vodafone, said: "Twenty-seven percent is good but we really want to accelerate our efforts."
Of the 1,000 people expected to he hired by Vodafone through the programme over the next three years, 500 will be to management positions. This will represent roughly 10pc of all external hires for jobs at this level over the period. Around 7,500 of Vodafone's employees are senior managers or above.
The telecoms company has already piloted the ReConnect scheme with 50 employees in 11 countries. Of the "returners" in this cohort, 15pc were men.
Vittorio Colao, the chief executive of Vodafone, said: “Companies often struggle to recruit and retain women in management and leadership roles. Innovations such as our global maternity policy and now our new ReConnect programme can make a real difference to women who work for us today and who will work for us in the future.”
Burcu Erdur took part in the pilot ReConnect programme after a three-year career break and is now a senior manager with Vodafone Turkey: “I felt like my career break wiped clean all of my previous career achievements; it was as if I had never worked. It is very hard being a working mum but it is manageable with the right support. ReConnect gave me this.”