Could a New Program Helping Canadian Moms Get Back Into Senior Positions Work in the U.S.?

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Family leave policies are better in Canada than the United States, but Canadian women face the same challenges as their U.S. counterparts when it comes to returning to the workforce after taking a few years off to raise children.

A recent Catalyst report explained that in Canada, female employees are entitled to a standard 17 weeks unpaid, job-protected maternity leave. Both male and female Canadian employees are granted up to 37 weeks unpaid, job-protected parental leave-35 weeks for women if being combined with maternity leave for a total of 52 weeks-in order to care for a newborn or newly adopted child.

And yet, Canadian women are often as stymied as U.S. moms in facing biases about their loyalty and commitment when they've been out of the workforce caring for children.

Creating a new resume, fine tuning interview skills and getting familiar with industry topics are particularly daunting for women in banking and other financial services professions, where professionals are often expected to work long hours and act as though the job is their key-if not their only-priority.

TD Bank and KPMG Sponsoring Programs

The good news is that financial service giants like Toronto Dominion Bank and KPMG are not only well aware of the dilemma, but they're actually stepping in with a concrete solution for moms who want to return to the workforce-taking on new positions at these firms and elsewhere-once their children are old enough.

TD Bank is the lead sponsor of a new return-to-work program at the Rotman School designed specifically for women who've been away from the workforce for years because of child-rearing responsibilities and are now determined to return. The program also has support from the Canadian subsidiaries of KPMG, Microsoft, Xerox and Rogers Telecommunications.

These firms and others have begun to realize that they're regularly losing "well-trained, talented women" due to the challenges of maternity leave, says Beatrix Dart, associate dean of the University of Toronto's Rotman School of Management and executive director of the Rotman Initiative for Women in Business.

"This is our second year running," Dart told eFinancialCareers.

There are 30 seats available for the Rotman Initiative for Women in Business each year.

TD expects perhaps half of those students may be good candidates for positions across a broad spectrum-"from investment banking to economist," Dart observes-within TD bank itself.

That's not to suggest that graduates of the program are exploring just one employer.

Women who complete the course-which meets three or four days a week each month, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., over the course of three months each fall-can apply their new job hunting skills to virtually any firm, including but not limited to the program's sponsors. However, TD Bank and the other supporting organizations have hosted sessions for these women and given them an overview of the positions that might be available to them going forward.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, the demand to get into the program has been incredibly strong, with enough demand to fill the open slots "four times over," Dart says.

The course supplies a certificate upon completion, and registration costs C$1,950, which includes meals and course materials. "It's a bargain thanks to the help of TD Bank," says Dart.

In order to be a viable candidate for the program, it will help to:

· Have been out of the workforce for the past three to eight years;

· Have at least three years of prior managerial work experience;

· Have Proven business acumen and relationship-building skills, and have:

· A serious motivation to step back into the workforce.

"You really need to be ready to come back," Dart stresses. "We probe very much on readiness."

There are some real incentives to take the program, given that it offers free child care to mothers of very small children, and the fact that after the course finishes, graduates have access to career coaches who help them determine what they still need to work on and to check in with about their interview progress.

Employers like TD and KPMG have their own vested interest in making the program work, says Dart, pointing to the aging workforce and the fact that not only are fewer young people coming through the pipeline these days, but studies show that women are more and more likely to be making investment decisions and that women often like to be advised by other women.

We're happy to offer the program to U.S. market

"Employers need to reflect their customer populations," Dart says, adding that while currently all the program sponsors are Canadian, "We'd be happy to offer our experience to the U.S. market as well," should any American institutions wish to participate in the Rotman school program in the future, she adds.

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