Program Aids Women's Return to Work

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This October, Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business will begin a pilot of "Back in Business," a program designed to reintegrate professionals - primarily women - into the business world after they've taken time off from their careers.

According to Program Manager Corrie Martin, Back in Business focuses on developing leadership skills and providing the kind of business knowledge required by "world-class" employers. Offered in four modules over 11 days between Oct. 3 and Dec. 3, the program also incorporates career planning and facilitates the process of reentry into the workforce, and allows participants to tap into Tuck's network and work with peers who share similar backgrounds and work/life challenges. Sessions will be held in New York and on Dartmouth's Hanover, N.H., campus.

The pilot program, for which admission closed in August, will have 40 participants. The average participant is in her mid to late 40s, and Martin estimates five or six of the initial class members will be male.

Addressing Challenges

Citigroup's Corporate and Investment Banking unit is the program's lead sponsor. The bank sees Back in Business as a way to connect with experienced professionals at a time when investment banks are facing a talent shortage and trying to increase the number of women in their management ranks, says spokesperson Rene Babich. According to figures provided by Citigroup, some 37 percent of MBA-level professional women voluntarily leave the workforce at some point in their careers. Ninety three percent of professional women who aren't currently working say they'd like to return to the business world at some point.

That would seem like a promising dynamic for both women and Wall Street firms. However, women say it's difficult to find a path back, and banks say it's difficult to identify promising candidates.

One challenge is the idea that anyone returning to the workforce must resume the type of position they left. People who've made the decision to rebalance their personal and work lives may not be on fire to step into time-demanding jobs in investment banking, trading or sales. Citigroup hopes to steer returning professionals toward jobs where they can make use of their skills in a way that fits with their own goals. "A lot of the jobs we're looking at are not necessarily client-facing," says Babich. "They're in operations, finance or more on the support side. The idea is a lot of women who left were client-facing but want to come back and want to have more control over their time. That wouldn't be in an investment banker's role."

A number of other financial firms have expressed interest in the program, Martin says. Lehman Brothers is an additional sponsor, while Goldman Sachs and Deloitte plan to either recruit from its participants or provide executives as mentors.

Martin expects Back in Business to be offered at least once a year. "The interest of prospective participants has confirmed there's enough demand," she says. The admissions process for 2007 could begin as soon as January 1. Anyone interested in being notified when the admissions process begins can send Martin an e-mail.

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