Picture the scene. A woman who has been on a career break for five years, starts her job search.

Jane Knight and Faith Weatherly

She finds a role.

It is part-time, offering flexible hours with a family-friendly employer, even better it is a role she did before having children, in an industry she wants to return to.

She can’t contain her excitement. It was meant to be.

But then she reads the job spec.

And as she reads, that initial excitement slowly ebbs away.

She soon realises she can’t match every single requirement listed in the job description.

So, she doesn’t apply.

Because she doesn’t believe she can do the job.

But in reality she can.

At Successful Mums Career Academy, we frequently see a woman’s confidence diminish when faced with a job spec. A fear of failure stops them applying for roles, and that is a missed opportunity, not just for a woman, but also for the employer.

Faith is an example of this. I have known Faith for a long time, we even did a management course together many years ago when she held a senior position at a local College. Yet, despite her rich work experience, qualifications and the many transferable skills from being a mum, Faith told me how she won’t apply for a job unless she meets all the job requirements.

Yet conversely when we talk to men, it is a different story. A well-used statistic states that women only apply if they have 100% of the quals listed in a job description, whereas men are happy just meeting 60%i.

There is no doubt there is a certain modesty that still surrounds women returners. Historically, women have faced societal expectations and gender stereotypes that discourage them from following certain professions or positions. These biases cause self-doubt and a lack of confidence and lead women to question their qualifications and unnecessarily hesitate before applying for jobs. It is that overarching perception that women must meet every requirement before even considering an application, which I have seen limit career aspirations and hold women back from achieving what they deserve.

Worried you can’t do it all? We know that women are often put off from applying for roles if they can’t meet every single aspect of the job spec. If you are excited by this job but your experience doesn’t match perfectly, we would still encourage you to apply. Let us know what you can bring to the team.

To counteract this we encourage employers to add a simple statement to their job specs when recruiting. ‘Worried you can’t do it all? We know that women are often put off from applying for roles if they can’t meet every single aspect of the job spec. If you are excited by this job but your experience doesn’t match perfectly, we would still encourage you to apply. Let us know what you can bring to the team.’

This recognition could just give women the encouragement they need to apply. But then they are faced with imposter syndrome. This is a common phenomenon among both men and women, in fact, around 70% of peopleii will experience imposter syndrome in their life.

Imposter syndrome can have a particularly strong impact on women’s job applications. I have met huge amounts of women over the years who feel that they need to prove themselves more than their male counterparts, leading to heightened self-doubt and that fear of failure. They don’t believe they are a worthy candidate.

But imposter syndrome can be overcome. You need to recognise your achievements and capabilities, believe in yourself, and understand that growth and learning on the job are common and expected. One of the biggest barriers that our learners face, is confidence, something which often plagues women in their professional lives. Confidence is essential for women to recognise their true potential and the skills, competencies, and contributions they could bring to a job role.

A widespread lack of confidence often leads women to underestimate their abilities and, consequently, not apply for positions. Encouraging women to embrace their accomplishments and recognise the transferable skills they have as a parent is crucial in overcoming this barrier.

At Successful Mums we work hard to emphasis the transferable skills acquired during a career break, such as project management, leadership, problem-solving, and communication skills. All of these can demonstrate a candidate’s aptitude for the desired role.

Returning to work after a career break can be daunting for women, particularly if they don’t possess a degree, and as a result, feel underqualified.

But so many valuable skills and experiences can be gained outside of formal education. And while traditionally, employers have placed great emphasis on formal education and degrees as a measure of qualification. The tide is turning, and the perception of what constitutes a qualified candidate is evolving.

So many employers we work with, value a diverse range of skills, experiences, and personal qualities that extend beyond formal education.

Employers are increasingly recognising the value of hands-on experience, soft skills, and the ability to adapt and learn quickly. It is so important to challenge the notion that a lack of a degree is an insurmountable barrier and instead emphasise the importance or relevant skills and expertise.

Women returners need recognition.

They are a highly skilled workforce that bring a huge amount of life experience to the table. By challenging gender stereotypes, channeling self-belief, and highlighting transferable skills we will see these women shine.

Jane Knight, Founder,

Successful Mums Career Academy

If you are looking to return to work and want to find out what courses Successful Mums Career Academy can offer you, register your interest HERE and one of our friendly team will be in touch.

If you are an employer that would like to connect with skilled women click HERE to find out more.

i Hewlett Packard internal report
ii Gravois, 2007; Sakulku and Alexander 2011