Career Comeback: Nurturing Women’s Success After a Career Gap
On March 27, 2023, the Pearl Initiative facilitated a Diversity in Business Leadership Working Group meeting, bringing together a diverse group of companies such as Chalhoub, Dana Gas, Shell, Crescent Enterprises, ENOC, PwC, Marsh, and SABIC. The purpose of this meeting was to address the challenges faced by women after career breaks and emphasize the importance of implementing returnship programs for their successful reintegration into the workforce. Despite notable progress in gender equality, the meeting highlighted the ongoing need for action and proactive measures in this regard.
In today’s competitive business landscape, fostering an inclusive and supportive environment for women returning from career breaks is not only a matter of social responsibility but also a strategic advantage. Research has shown that organizations with diverse and inclusive workforces tend to outperform their peers in terms of productivity and financial performance. For instance, a McKinsey & Company report titled “Diversity Wins” analyzed data from over 1,000 companies across 15 countries and found that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to experience above-average profitability. Furthermore, studies, such as the research conducted by Professor Claudia Goldin and Professor Lawrence F. Katz in their study “The Career Cost of Family,” suggest that motherhood can positively impact women’s productivity. Becoming a mother often leads to increased efficiency and effectiveness as women develop strong time management and prioritization skills. This highlights the value of mothers in the workforce and reinforces the notion that supporting women returning from career breaks can enhance organizational performance, innovation, and creativity.
Building upon this understanding, the discussion during the working group meeting shed light on various obstacles that women face when reentering the workforce. One key challenge identified was the limited access to mentors who can provide tailored guidance and support based on shared experiences. Additionally, career gaps can lead to changes in skillsets and knowledge currency, making it more difficult for women to regain confidence and stay updated on industry developments.
The discussion shed light on various obstacles that women face when reentering the workforce. One key challenge identified was the limited access to mentors who can provide tailored guidance and support based on shared experiences. Further, career gaps can lead to changes in skillsets and knowledge currency, making it more difficult for women to regain confidence and stay updated on industry developments.
Another significant concern that resonated throughout the conversation was the disparities in pay and promotions faced by women returning from a career break. Women often encounter inequitable career advancement opportunities when compared to their male counterparts, and career breaks can exacerbate this disparity.
Underpinning the entire conversation was the prevalence of unconscious biases and gender stereotypes, which limit women’s growth opportunities, and perpetuate discrimination in the workplace. Challenging these biases and embracing diversity is essential for creating an inclusive work environment that values the contributions of women returning from career breaks. These multifaceted obstacles collectively hinder the career reentry and advancement of women, highlighting the need for proactive measures and supportive initiatives.
Drawing from their collective expertise and experiences, the working group members proposed key changes that organizations can implement to address these obstacles comprehensively. Solutions included promoting workplace flexibility through formal policies, such as remote work, flexible hours, and job sharing, to support employees, particularly women returning from career breaks. Addressing career progression for women returning from career breaks was also emphasized, ensuring they are not disadvantaged; as well as creating a culture that values their skills and potential.
Fostering a culture of allyship and support through mentorship programs and peer networks was identified as another critical solution. By implementing programs and initiatives that raise awareness and provide support for colleagues returning from career breaks, organizations can facilitate a smooth transition and offer necessary guidance and resources for women reentering the workforce.
To further aid employees in their reentry and career advancement, the provision of comprehensive onboarding sessions was suggested. These sessions would help women refresh their skills, familiarize themselves with industry trends, and ensure they are well-equipped for their roles. Additionally, implementing legislation and country-wide laws to protect the rights of employees during and after a career gap was highlighted, promoting equal opportunities and fair treatment for all individuals.
By implementing these potential solutions, organizations can foster an inclusive and supportive environment that enables women returning from career breaks to thrive. This commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion will not only benefit women but also lead to overall improvement in organizational performance, innovation, and creativity.
This Diversity in Business Leadership Working Group meeting underscored the collective commitment to drive change and foster greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. These efforts reflect the dedication to creating inclusive work environments that support women and enable them to thrive in their professional journeys. Furthermore, the Gulf region has implemented positive initiatives like the Parent-friendly Label program in the UAE, which aims to identify employers actively supporting parents juggling work and home life. This program exemplifies the commitment to promoting work-life balance and offering the necessary resources for women to successfully resume their careers. By recognizing the unique needs of working parents and actively supporting them, the Gulf region fosters a culture that values the contributions and well-being of women in the workforce.
The Diversity in Business Leadership Working Group meeting underscored the collective commitment to drive change and foster greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. These efforts reflect the dedication to creating inclusive work environments that support women and enable them to thrive in their professional journeys.
The Gulf region has implemented various initiatives to support women returning from career breaks and working mothers. For example, in the UAE, the Parent-friendly Label program aims to identify employers who actively support parents in balancing work and home life, thereby promoting a family-friendly work environment. Similarly, the Wusool program in Saudi Arabia provides financial assistance for transportation and childcare expenses to support women who have taken career breaks, facilitating their smooth reentry into the workforce. Such initiatives showcase the region’s commitment to recognizing the unique needs of working parents and actively supporting them, fostering a culture that values the contributions and well-being of women in the workforce across the Gulf countries.