15. February 2018

Female Returners – Untapped Potential

Many well-educated and professionally experienced women in Switzerland consciously take a career break after starting a family and while their children are young. Many also desire to return to the workforce later on, with a frequent preference for part-time work. In other cases, a mother has to return to work, such as after a separation or divorce.

Returning to work is often a more difficult and lengthy endeavor than many women imagined. The reasons for this are manifold. In some sectors, part-time positions for qualified professionals are rare. A woman sometimes has no other choice but to settle for a job under her qualifications or outside her profession.  If childcare can’t be organized within one’s circle of family and friends, the legitimate question arises, whether it’s even worth working outside the home. In other cases, a career relaunch simply begins to look like a far-fetched dream, as numerous applications are declined. Many women begin to doubt themselves. They wonder how to handle the gap in their CV and whether they even still have a chance on the job market with the label „housewife“ and the prejudices attached to it.

On the other hand, we continuously read in the press about the various challenges facing the Swiss labour market: the lack of qualified professionals in many sectors of the economy, the digital transformation, an aging population, and the growing demand for a better work-life balance, to name just a few. Companies are increasingly challenged to recruit and retain sufficiently qualified professionals in order to remain competitive. In addition to recruiting talent from abroad, it makes sense from both a business and economic standpoint to better utilise the potential in the domestic market as well. There are several ways to go about this. One is to improve the integration of female professionals into the Swiss labour market.

It is both economically and sociopolitically problematic, when well-educated women do not return to their professions after a longer break. On the one hand, it means that valuable resources in society are wasted.  Women who miss out on further career development will also be financially worse off during retirement, because they have fewer means for building up a pension.

All stakeholders are called upon to address these challenges. Policy makers have the responsibility to create a good framework for more professional flexibility, for example by promoting continuing eduation and expanding affordable childcare services. Companies can also make an impact by introducing flexible and part-time work models for both men and women on every hierarchical level and by offering returnships. For those involved in recruitment activities, it can be worthwhile to reflect personally on gender-specific role expecations and the potential for unconscious bias against female candidates with children.

Women and their partners can also do their part, for example, by striving for a fair and manageable allocation of work and family duties. Women should also be aware of the consequences of returning to work and prepare themselves well for it. During a career break, it is important to continue investing in one’s knowledge and competences.

Executive School Programmes:
Open Programmes

Women Back to Business

The management programme for women on the move.
This can be done through volunteer work, continuing education, career-relevant reading, and participation in professional networks. All this helps to maintain one’s skills, keep up-to-date on developments in the field, and build self-confidence. For experience shows that a lack of self-confidence and an inaccurate assessment of one’s professional skills are two of the greatest hindrances to the professional reintegration process.


Photo by Jake Melara on Unsplash


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