Reentering the Workforce Is a Focal Point at the IEEE Women in Engineering Conference

Also on the virtual event’s program are sessions about biotechnology, disruptive technology, and executive leadership

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THE INSTITUTE The IEEE Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference (WIE ILC) is scheduled to be held virtually from 27 to 30 April. The theme is Accelerating Through Change.

The annual conference aims to support and sustain female leaders and technologists, especially mid- to late-career workers. Mae C. Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel to space, and Sandra L. Rivera, executive vice president of Intel, are among the keynote speakers. 

One of the scheduled panel sessions addresses returnship programs in industry. Returnships provide women who left the workforce the opportunity to get back on their career path. Such programs provide training and mentoring support through paid internships, which can lead to full-time positions.

Returnship programs are needed now more than ever. Women’s careers often are interrupted by their caretaking duties, and the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse. As of February, nearly 3 million women have left the U.S. workforce during the pandemic. That’s nearly a 3 percent decrease of women’s participation in the economy, according to a recent CBS News article. Approximately 5 percent of women in the United States with children between the ages of 2 and 6 have left the workforce, compared with about 1 percent of men. Globally, women are nearly 25 percent more likely to lose their job permanently during the pandemic than men.

Many women whose career has been interrupted assume they have hit a dead end, with no possible return to the job market. Meanwhile, prospective employers often ask applicants to explain employment gaps and whether their technical knowledge is current.

To assist women reentering the workforce, the WIE ILC has established a scholarship for returnships, partly sponsored by Qualcomm, which has an active returnship program.

Those interested in the grant, including IEEE WIE members and students, can apply on the WIE ILC website. The deadline is 26 March. Scholarship recipients will receive free registration to the conference.

IEEE Senior Member Heather Quinn is general chair for the IEEE WIE ILC this year and next year. IEEE Senior Member Kathy Hayashi, the scholarship chair for the conference, was its general chair in 2019 and last year.

IEEE membership offers a wide range of benefits and opportunities for those who share a common interest in technology. If you are not already a member, consider joining IEEE and becoming part of a worldwide network of more than 400,000 students and professionals.

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