How women returners could become a valuable part of your future workforce

How women returners could become a valuable part of your future workforce

According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers Women in Work Index 2016, Women Returners still make up a significantly underutilised resource. In particular, this research shows that in the UK an additional £1.7bn of economic output could be identified and £1.1bn could be added to women’s earning if women returning to work after a career break where fully tapped into. Furthermore, 3 out of 5 returning professionals could end up underemployed and/or utilised for jobs that are below their potential. The reports concludes that a lot more could be done by employers to support the return to work of these women, especially by way of creating more creative and flexible job opportunities.

In reality, these issues are not new and already in 2009 an academic article by Tomlinson, J. / Olsen, W. and Purdam, K. highlighted that when women returners work part-time, they have limited occupational choice. Rigidities in the design of full- and part-time jobs have led to many women opting for part-time jobs in occupational areas for which they are over-qualified. Additionally, they argued argue that UK women returners and potential returners have been overlooked in government and sector skill council training agendas.

In its strive to empower women through employability in travel, tourism and hospitality, Women in Travel launched an industry first in January by running a Women Returners programme working with the homelessness charity Crisis UK and 5 travel and tourism partners and employers: DiamondAir International, MTR Crossrail, Under The Doormat, Digital Dialog  and Georgian House hotel.

In the case of this programme, women are not ‘just’ on a career break; they have actually experienced a personal challenge of sort that has brought unemployment and at times homelessness, but not necessarily forever! All women we met were determined to put their skills back into work and rebuild their confidence and their lives as quickly as possible.

For this first group, we had identified eight women from different background, race, culture and educational level. A truly intercultural community! Most importantly, they opened up their otherwise invisible talent, personality, skills and hopes to the employers.

One of the employers commented: “We were truly inspired by the women that we met on your course, at their strength and positivity and at the thorough, relevant answers they gave to our questions.”

Some of the skills and experiences in the room included: communication, creative thinking, customer services, dealing with time and pressurised situations, organisational skills, languages. Previous work experiences included restaurants and hotels, public relations, health sector (NHS), retail, education & community services.

Employers are now feeding back who they wish to see for a second interview with the possibility of landing a real job as the follow-on step! I hope to be able to say more about this in future posts.

The Travel, Tourism, Hospitality and Event Industry is growing and thriving – yet increasingly experiencing talent management challenges due to a lower influx of foreign workers and more aggressive recruitment strategies from other industries. Women Returners can add great value to companies through their skills, experience, professional maturity and loyalty. Employers could do worse than considering our programme or establishing an internal one in the near future!

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Alessandra is founder of social enterprise Women in Travel CIC which she launched in January 2017 to provide communities in key regions (for example UK, Middle East, Africa and Latin America) with a sustainable livelihood by enabling women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship and a thriving career in the travel and tourism industry. Alessandra is also Chief Mentor & Consultant at Everyday Mentor, where she provides mentoring, coaching and consulting services to a range of clients in the commercial and public sector. Alessandra also collaborates with a number of Universities, including Hertfordshire, Normandy and Surrey. Alessandra is passionate about gender in tourism and has written and spoken extensively on the subject over the last 12 years, including at the United Nations World Tourism Day. She is well known as co-founder of Shine People and Places – a boutique outfit dedicate to supporting women in the workplace - and The Shine Awards for Women Achievements in Travel Tourism Hospitality and Events, which she ran between 2004 and 2010 before Sector Skills Council People 1st took them over. Prior to Shine Alessandra worked at KPMG, where she built the Travel & Tourism division, and the World Travel and Tourism Council. Alessandra has an executive MBA from the University of Ediburgh/Grande Ecole Pons combined; she is a qualified coach/mentor for performance in the workplace and she is a member of several industry bodies including AWTE and the UK Tourism Society.

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