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Supporting women’s careers

Story synopsis

In 2019, for those wanting to do something completely different, we opened applications for our first Return to Work Digital Retraining programme.

Designed to help address the digital skills gap, the programme was open to all - but designed with women in mind. 

Since blazing a trail by launching the first Return to Work initiative within professional services in the UK in 2015, we continue to offer a way into the firm for those re-starting their career after an extended break.

Open to anyone who has taken an extended career break, typically of two years or more, our Return to Work initiatives give successful applicants the support they need to refresh their skills and boost their confidence. They include training in areas like IT and personal development and invaluable peer support via our returner network.

In 2019, for those wanting to do something completely different, we opened applications for our first Return to Work Digital Retraining programme. Designed to help address the digital skills gap, the programme was open to all - but designed with women in mind.

A valuable pool of talent

Across the technology industry, women are vastly underrepresented, meaning businesses, and the economy as a whole, are missing out on a hugely valuable pool of potential talent.

To help, we invited aspiring returners with no experience, training or degree in software development or engineering to apply to join the programme and become part of a new generation of tech talent.

With the opportunity to complete a 12-month Software Developer Apprenticeship, achieve a Software Developer Level Four qualification and secure a permanent job with us, 800 applicants – 64 per cent of whom were women – applied for a place. 

A fresh start

One of the successful candidates for our apprenticeship was Leigh Leal.

Leigh, 40, was on a four-year career break following a spinal injury, and was looking for a fresh start in her life and career but was worried how a potential employer would judge the gaps in her CV.

Leigh’s varied career to date includes roles with the immigration services both in her birthplace of Trinidad and in London. Advised by her manager in Trinidad that she would need a degree to progress, she became the first in her family to attend university, studying criminology and psychology at the University of Greenwich.

After suffering a spinal injury in 2014, which made Leigh realise life was too short not to follow her creative passion – she makes carnival costumes in her spare time – she moved to Canada for 18 months and studied art. When she returned to the UK in May 2019, she came across various return to work programmes while looking for jobs.

Leigh told us: “I was disappointed to find that most retraining programmes and apprenticeships had no employment guarantees, then discovered Deloitte’s retraining programme through a women’s technology network. I was hesitant to apply as I felt I didn’t fit the professional services mould but I made that leap of faith!"

“I can already see my future with Deloitte. I’ve received an overwhelming amount of support, the people I work with are from different backgrounds and everyone has a unique story to tell."

"I love that this programme employs both sides of my brain; problem solving, which brings out my creative side, and coding, which bring out my investigative side. I am excited for my future.”

Supporting people after a career break

We know career breaks come in all shapes and sizes from multi-generational caring responsibilities to taking time out to travel or study. A critical part of our work is to build an inclusive culture and an important element is to develop our female talent pipeline across the firm.

We accept applications all year round for our returner supported hiring opportunities which means that individuals can join on a permanent basis at any time, while also getting the support they need.

Gender Balance

Our return to work supported hiring approach is just one of the interventions we’ve introduced to support our focus on achieving gender parity. Other initiatives introduced over the last 12 months have included doubling our paid paternity leave offering, redesigning our promotion processes for senior grades and ensuring all our recruitment and reward processes are bias free.

We want to incorporate a healthy diversity of views in our dialogue around gender issues, and challenge our thinking which is why we’ve also refreshed our 2,000 member-strong Gender Balance Network (formerly our Women’s Network) - making it open to everyone who wants to be an ally in supporting gender balance.

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Further reading

Our Black Action Plan

Recognising the difficult truth that bias and racism are widespread in our society.

Time for a New Beginning

Kickstarting careers with Cardiff and Vale College.

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