Most women wanting to return to work say lack of confidence in skills is hindering them

Author: Kirsty Tuxford | Date: 23 Nov 2016

Professional females want more training and support to re-enter the workforce, finds survey

A lack of confidence in their skills is hindering women who want to return to work after taking time out to raise their children, according to research by women’s support platform and recruitment portal Hopscotch.
In addition to a high number of women lacking confidence, more than half also wanted to improve their social media skills, and 64 per cent wanted to boost their personal effectiveness. The vast majority (80 per cent) of women questioned across the GCC said they wanted to improve their skills generally but there was not enough support, while 76 per cent would go back to work if flexible timetable options were available.
Hopscotch was established in April this year with the aim of catering to the needs of women in the workforce, by helping grow the skills of those who want to return to work and offering a recruitment service for flexible and part-time jobs. Help comes in the form of workshops, ‘power sessions’ and a ‘one-to-one’ service to aid professional women in the search for work that can fit around family life.
Hopscotch co-founder and managing director Helen McGuire said: “The survey results – that 70 per cent wanted to improve their skills but four out of five didn’t feel there was enough support to do so – were no surprise to us given our experience with women in the region, and gave us even more resolve to increase our training and support services.”
Gender equality in the UAE workplace is high on the agenda, as evidenced by the formation of the Gender Balance Council and the Dubai Women Establishment – with the latter announcing a five-year development strategy focused on getting more women noticed in the workforce. However, Gender Balance Council vice-chair Mona Al Marri has said the private sector is falling behind the public sector in terms of how many women are employed in senior positions – women fill 66 per cent of roles in the public sector, and just 30 per cent of leadership positions in the private sector.
“I think this is the nature of the region,” said Debbie Chatten, head of group learning and development at Al-Futtaim. “Despite having worked for two very different, large organisations over the last five years, I’ve found the leadership roles are still generally sought after by men and filled with male talent. There is still a way to go to educate managers on unconscious bias they may have and to support them to make the right choices with an inclusive mindset.
“We have some very strong female role models in leadership roles across the region. I wonder if the opportunity is more in flexible and family-friendly policies to attract and retain female leaders.
“Organisations could do more to have flexible policies to accommodate women who have to juggle work and family – that might then encourage more women to apply for leadership positions. There is certainly no shortage of female talent in the region, and I feel that attracting female talent is a huge opportunity for many organisations to capitalise on,” added Chatten.