She’s Back – Lisa Unwin & Deborah Khan / #Extract #BlogTour #LoveBooksGroupTours @shesback @UrbaneBooks


Lisa and Deb draw on years of research across several diverse sectors and their experience working with and listening to the stories of thousands of women to provide a fresh, pragmatic and above all useful guide for returning to work.

Whether you’ve had a complete break or simply stepped back and done something different for a while, this book is for you.





Manifesto: (noun) a written statement of the aims, beliefs and policies of an organization

Our aim is to help women to build meaningful and sustainable careers throughout their working lives.

It’s increasingly unlikely that any of us will have careers that begin at 21 and continue steadily until we retire. Whatever your initial ambitions, it’s highly likely that there will several bumps and changes of tack along the way. You may end up hating your chosen career, burn out, find a new passion, have health problems, take time out to bring up children, or find yourself looking after elderly relatives. Your career may well need to ebb and flow.

We want to see women build careers which are flexible enough to accommodate their ambitions beyond work, be that around parenting, caring, or other personal goals. Careers which can develop at different speeds, which can deal with breaks and gaps without being permanently thrown off course.

This aim is underpinned by core beliefs:

 Lives are long, complex and messy

 Work adds something to our lives

 Your value is not derived solely through work

 Being a parent develops a new set of skills

 Ageism is pernicious, rife and wrong

 We should be free to make choices

 Lives are complex and messy

They are also long. Like many women we know, when we graduated we were just as ambitious as the men around us. We were educated. The hard-fought battles around equality were all done and dusted, we had the pill to control our fertility, what could go wrong?

Hitting our thirties. Often, the point at which companies are looking to accelerate the careers of high potential people coincides nicely with the point at which many women are thinking about having children. Yes, many do progress in their careers but sadly others don’t.

Lives are long. In The 100 Year Life, Lynda Gratton and Andrew Scott explore the many ramifications of us all living for longer. It is increasingly unlikely that any of us – men or women – will have linear careers that encompass one job. We need to be prepared for that.

It should be possible to have careers that twist and turn with our lives, to slow down or accelerate, to step off and then step back, to find fulfilling work throughout our lives.

 Work adds something to our lives

Work gives you a distinct identity. You’re no longer defined as someone’s mother, partner or daughter. It can provide structure, meaning, friendship and a sense of community. Learning, being stretched and exercising your brain, are enriching and a very good thing.

Our research proved the major reason for women wanting to return was to find challenging, fulfilling work. Financial reward was a secondary consideration but a very important one. Who amongst us has really saved enough to glide into a comfortable retirement without many years of work ahead?

Women should have the opportunity to find work that makes a difference, is rewarded properly and meets their aspirations and ambitions. We’ve earned our right to be in the workplace. We deserve to be there. We’re valuable and we deserve to be rewarded for the contribution we make.

 Your value is not solely developed through work

“When women are strong, families are strong.” Hillary Clinton

Work pays far too little attention to the skills and experience people gain outside of the workplace. We look around at the women we know, the women we met through our research, and we marvel at what they’ve achieved.

They have navigated any number of minefields: brought up children; cared for elderly or sick relatives; supported partners; held down a job; moved house; moved countries, emerged from a messy divorce; survived serious illness; managed a household; completed years of admin; been a good friend; contributed to the community; and spent years listening to other people and their problems.

None of that is possible without grit, determination, resilience and the ability to innovate, plan, ask for support and learn new skills. They have grown as a result.

 Being a parent develops important leadership skills

“Based on my own experience, women will tend to be more inclusive, to reach out more, to care a little more.”

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, IMF

The world is ever changing. The digital revolution is bringing with it more transparency in business and a need for greater collaboration. Internally and externally. Being open, listening, working with others, helping people, being agile, responsive and flexible – these are traditionally seen as female traits. They’re proving invaluable in today’s working environment.

As the wonderful Dr Wanda Austin, CEO of The Aerospace Corporation, put it on Woman’s Hour not too long ago, being a mother is all about leadership. You decide the rules, decide what the family has to eat, what manners are expected, how everyone needs to behave.

Mothers have to flex and adapt to the changing needs of their families. They help their children become better people, equipped to thrive as independent, thoughtful adults. This, in a nutshell, is leadership

 Ageism is pernicious, rife and wrong

We were enraged some time ago, when the newly appointed boss of a well-known high street retailer announced:

“I know my customer, she’s Mrs M&S, a woman in her 50s who …”

Once we calmed down, we questioned his statement, concluding that he had a reductive and myopic view of women like us. We drafted this ‘at a glance’, hopefully helpful, guide about what she is and isn’t, what she likes and dislikes. Ignore at your peril.

About the authors

Lisa Unwin is the founder of She’s Back, a business whose purpose is to enable business to access the unique talent in women returning to work after an extended career break.

A former partner with Arthur Andersen Business Consulting and Director of Brand and Communication at Deloitte, Lisa had a 20 year career in professional services prior to setting up She’s Back



Deb Khan combines two successful careers, leveraging her background in the creative arts. She has a proven track record affecting change across a wide range of businesses in the Advertising & Media, Technology, Charity & Education sectors. Deb is a results driven Trainer, Workshop Leader, Facilitator & Coach.