A New Platform is Helping Women Re-enter the Workforce

At the age of 37, Jennifer Gefsky felt like she had become a cliché. She was working a demanding job as an employment lawyer for Major League Baseball, and she had a four-year-old and a two-year-old at home. She found herself caught in a position that so many working mothers find themselves — stretched thin and like she wasn’t doing anything well.

“I was working the minimum amount and feeling stressed and being home the minimum amount of time and never seeing the kids,” she recalls.

Gefsky’s husband also had a stressful job, and it got to the point where the babysitter was the only one who was able to attend school functions. Something had to give.

So Gefsky made a decision that some 37 percent of professional women make at some point in their careers, according to the Center for Talent Innovation: She decided to opt-out of the workforce for a while, in this case, to focus on her family.

Seven years and another child later, when Gefsky was ready to re-enter the professional world, she realized it wouldn’t be easy. “I had an amazing career and did very well, and when I went back I was overwhelmed,” she says, “I didn’t really know the path back to work and there were no resources to help me.”

Instead of pounding the pavement to find a position as a corporate lawyer, Gefsky saw an opportunity. She calculated that there are currently some three million women in the U.S. with college or advanced degrees who left their jobs to care for children or other family members and are trying to re-enter the workforce. Gefsky wanted to help them.

Jennifer Gefsky with her co-founder Niccole Kroll. (Photo by Sasha Israel)

This past May, she co-founded Après (French for “after”), a new platform that has been called the “LinkedIn for women who have taken a career break.”

The site offers job listings, along with career coaching, editorial content, and a community forum, all designed to help get women back to work.The need is clearly there. More than 12,000 members have joined Après since its launch three months ago, and more than 50 companies — from AT&T and Microsoft to tiny non-profits — currently offer jobs on the site.

“We can’t afford to lose these well-educated women,” Gefsky says, adding that women opting out and then back into the workforce is a relatively new phenomenon.“Baby Boomer women who had careers and opted out tended to stay out. But Gen-Xers said ‘I have a career, what’s the problem with opting-out for a bit?’ And Millennials are going to do it too. This is an issue that is not going away,” Gefsky says.

“If companies want to win the war for talent,” says Gefsky, “they need to accept that people are going to have gaps in their resumes.”

Though it’s still early days for Après, people like Kirby Richards are already landing jobs through the site. Richards, 45, a former marketing manager from Chicago, left the workforce eight years ago when she was pregnant with her second child. She had wanted to resume her career for a while, but had a difficult time finding a part-time job that paid well. After a friend told her about Après, Richards went on the site the next day and thought to herself, “Wow, this is what has been missing.”

She found a job that interested her almost immediately, had an interview the following week, and landed the position working as a “curator” for Viyet, a high-end, consignment furniture start-up. For Richards, the role is ideal — part-time and very flexible. “It’s a soft, wonderful re-entry,” Richards says.

For Jennifer Koen, Viyet’s VP of Business Development, the decision to hire professional women who are rejoining the workforce was a no-brainer. Koen is a working mother who had taken time off herself, and knows first-hand the kind of maturity, experience and loyalty working mothers can bring to a position.

“They tend to over-deliver,” Koen says. “They are excited to be back in the workforce, very engaged, and willing to wear a lot of hats. For a start-up, it’s a huge engine of our growth.”

This post originally appeared on Several People Are Typingthe official Slack Blog.