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UAE mothers returning from career breaks face hurdles like salary cuts and demotions.

Women returning to work after a career break or motherhood often face formidable challenges in the UAE or anywhere in the world. The hurdles include bridging experience gaps and navigating the lack of flexible working hours after re-entering the professional sphere.

The primary challenge many working mothers face from prospective employers is the disheartening proposition of accepting reduced salaries and positions as a testament to their dedication and value.

Aws Ismail, General Manager at Marc Ellis, stated, "We frequently encounter CVs from women aiming to return to work post-motherhood, and we find that many face challenges like employment gaps, perceived skill gaps, and employer bias regarding flexibility and commitment. We often find these women being offered roles that do not match their skillsets or being told they should accept a lower salary to prove their worth and commitment to the employer."

Companies like Marc Ellis provide personalised career coaching to refine these women's CVs, ensuring they effectively showcase their skills and address employment gaps.

"We advocate their skills and availability to clients and offer upskilling and reskilling through our training academy, helping them fill any gaps in their skillsets. We believe this approach aims to ease their transition back into the workforce, helping them secure positions that value their experience while accommodating their commitments," added Ismail.

Meanwhile, an employment platform, Beyond Careers, has launched a GCC-wide Return to Work Survey to explore the challenges faced by mothers employed in or re-entering the regional workforce.

Launched on International Women's Day this year, the study aims to gather data to determine current trends to build good practices that employers can adopt to attract and retain female talent in the workplace.

The Return-to-Work Survey has been rolled out in collaboration with the British Chamber of Commerce Dubai, led by CEO Katy Holmes. She said, "There are two rising scenarios in Dubai: highly experienced and time-constricted women looking to return to work and company founders who are 'lonely at the top' and would hugely benefit from senior counsel on a part-time basis."

The study is inspired by Rowen Astrom's professional background in corporate reputation and employer branding, coupled with her personal experience of working motherhood.

While expecting her first child, Astrom was convinced about the benefits of flexibility in helping women return to work and bridging the gender pay gap. She said, "The employment market is at a pivotal moment. We hear a lot about the global talent shortage, but equally, some highly skilled candidates cannot find the right position to suit their needs, particularly those with young children or returning from a career break. If we can bridge this gap between employers and applicants, we can build a long-term solution to talent acquisition and sustainable employment."

Explaining the platform's three integrated approaches, Astrom explained that candidates constantly look to connect with companies that align with their purpose and values.

"Our work with employers prioritises those with a strong workplace culture underpinned by tangible, employee-friendly policies, ranging from remote work to wellbeing. We go under the surface to review and verify a company's culture using a proprietary accreditation process, and we provide employer branding insights and solutions that enable businesses to evaluate and improve their reputation continually."

On the other hand, Astrom stressed they work with potential candidates to career coach them, organise clinics and workshops as well as guide them on salary negotiation, career progression, and workplace wellbeing.

"Through our employer verification process, we can also answer those important questions from candidates on whether the company's work culture is what they say it is, which leads to the third aspect of the process, to match the right candidates with verified employers through executive search and placement," she added.

March 21, 2024 4:19 p.m. 7666

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