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We work our whole lives to end up with a career that we love, but as women, we get to a certain age and know that our clock is ticking to have kids. If that’s a road that we want to drive down, taking some time off work is almost inevitable. If you’re lucky, you’re able to take maternity leave and return to the job that you love, but many women find that they love the title “mom” even more and decide to take some time off.
For some, the drive to return to the work force whether down the corporate path or through exercising our entrepreneurial spirit is so strong that we can feel our whole core telling us it’s time - which isn’t always the easiest thing to do. In fact, there have even been organizations created like The Pregnancy Pause that aims to help moms explain the gaps in their resume and not get passed over for opportunities. Yes, the struggle to balance it all is difficult for working moms, but there are some awesome ways to prepare yourself for this transition.
1. Update your skills.
Updating your resume is an obvious one, but really sitting down to update the skills that you have gained (yes, gained - moms make the best CEO’s after all because of their outstanding communication and organizational skills) and make sure they’re added to your resume. It is probably also worth your time to hire a professional to make sure your resume is top notch before you begin your search.
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2. Touch base with former colleagues and working mom friends.
The best connections that you can make will always be through networking, so putting your feelers out there and seeing what insight or openings that former colleagues or working mom friends have is key. While they might not have a job to offer you, they might know someone to be in touch with to help get your foot in the door.
3. Be persistent about making your dreams come true.
Knowing that you’re going to be giving up your stay at home mom gig means that you don’t want to settle for just anything, and you most certainly don’t want to push aside your professional dreams. Karoli Hendriks, founder of Jobbatical, a career platform shared, “Having been in the confidence struggle, especially in the male-dominated tech world, I know how tempting it is to allow yourself to give up your dreams. I encourage women to step out from that comfort zone and tailor a life that can accommodate both - parenthood and professional growth. On that journey do not forget yourself. And doing both - professional growth as a startup founder and parenthood means in my case giving up a social life, but that is something I have accepted in recent years. I guess each of us makes our own sacrifices, but it’s worth it.”
Photo Courtesy of Dr. Mommy Chronicals
4. Be open.
While you don’t want to let those dreams subside, also allow yourself to be open to new adventures. Whether you have an amazing idea and want to start your own company or are interested in using your new skills to explore a new profession, see whats out there and be open to a completely different position that works with your life instead of adding stress to it.
With that being said, sometimes being open means taking a lower salary or starting from the bottom, which is okay as long as you have a plan and know where you want to end up. Sometimes even volunteering in the beginning will give you an opportunity to figure out where your passions lie.
5. Look into “return to work” programs.
Many companies such as Morgan Stanley offer these types of programs for people who have been out of the work force for two years or longer - many of which are women who have taken time off to have kids. These programs are amazing for getting back into the swing of things because the company already knows your situation and is working with you to get you back into a job you love.
6. Hire a caregiver that you love.
Hiring a caregiver that you love and trust is crucial to getting back to work after taking a pregnancy pause because you will never want to leave your kids if you aren’t fully comfortable with the person you’re leaving them with. It’s very important to interview caregivers or day cares until you find one that fully suits your family's needs. Having someone dependable in your life to leave your precious cargo with day in and day out takes a huge weight off your shoulders and is truly invaluable.
7. Take a little “test-drive”.
This could mean something different for everyone, whether you need to “test-drive” being away from your child for a long period of time, being in an office environment, dealing with clients - or even just going shopping work work clothes! Give yourself a chance to try things out because there’s nothing worse than not being prepared for that first back to work experience and wishing that you were actually home with your babe.
8. Own your new role.
It’s not always easy to jump out of our comfort zones, which being at home with your children can be. It’s also equally as easy to use motherhood as an excuse if we aren’t fully comfortable in our new role, but the best thing for yourself is to fully own the whole experience. Establish business hours that allow you to still have those mom moments that are so important, but whenever you’re “on” at work, fully embrace it. Yes, it will take some time to get there, but when you have, there’s nothing that will stop you. It’s all mental, but you will feel in your gut whenever everything is falling into place. Remember that moms are the ultimate CEO’s, we can handle everything put before us and have truly masted the art of multitasking - there’s nothing you can’t handle.
Women of the Middle East have made significant strides in the past decade in a number of sectors, but huge gaps remain within the labor market, especially in leadership roles.
A huge number of institutions have researched and quantified trends of and obstacles to the full utilization of females in the marketplace. Gabriela Ramos, is the Chief-of-Staff to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), an alliance of thirty-six governments seeking to improve economic growth and world trade. The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
To realize the possibilities, attention needs to be directed toward the most significantly underutilized resource: the women of MENA—the Middle East and North African countries. Educating the men of MENA on the importance of women working and holding leadership roles will improve the economies of those nations and lead to both national and global rewards, such as dissolving cultural stereotypes.
The OECD reports that increasing participation in the women's labor force could easily result in a $12 trillion jump in the global GDP by the year 2025.
In order to put this issue in perspective, the MENA region has the second highest unemployment rate in the world. According to the World Bank, more women than men go to universities, but for many in this region the journey ends with a degree. After graduating, women tend to stay at home due to social and cultural pressures. In 2017, the OECD estimated that unemployment among women is costing some $575 billion annually.
Forbes and Arabian Business have each published lists of the 100 most powerful Arab businesswomen, yet most female entrepreneurs in the Middle East run family businesses. When it comes to managerial positions, the MENA region ranks last with only 13 percent women among the total number of CEOs according to the Swiss-based International Labor Organization (ILO.org publication "Women Business Management – Gaining Momentum in the Middle East and Africa.")
The lopsided tendency that keeps women in family business—remaining tethered to the home even if they are prepared and capable of moving "into the world"—is noted in a report prepared by OECD. The survey provides factual support for the intuitive concern of cultural and political imbalance impeding the progression of women into the workplace who are otherwise fully capable. The nations of Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Egypt all prohibit gender discrimination and legislate equal pay for men and women, but the progressive-sounding checklist of their rights fails to impact on "hiring, wages or women's labor force participation." In fact, the report continues, "Women in the six countries receive inferior wages for equal work… and in the private sector women rarely hold management positions or sit on the boards of companies."
This is more than a feminist mantra; MENA's males must learn that they, too, will benefit from accelerating the entry of women into the workforce on all levels. Some projections of value lost because women are unable to work; or conversely the amount of potential revenue are significant.
Elissa Freiha, founder of Womena, the leading empowerment platform in the Middle East, emphasizes the financial benefit of having women in high positions when communicating with men's groups. From a business perspective it has been proven through the market Index provider MSCI.com that companies with more women on their boards deliver 36% better equity than those lacking board diversity.
She challenges companies with the knowledge that, "From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies."
Freiha agrees that educating MENA's men will turn the tide. "It is difficult to argue culturally that a woman can disconnect herself from the household and community." Her own father, a United Arab Emirates native of Lebanese descent, preferred she get a job in the government, but after one month she quit and went on to create Womena. The fact that this win-lose situation was supported by an open-minded father, further propelled Freiha to start her own business.
"From a business level, you can have a potential of 63% by incorporating the female perspective on the executive team and the boards of companies." - Elissa Frei
While not all men share the open-mindedness of Freiha's dad, a striking number of MENA's women have convincingly demonstrated that the talent pool is skilled, capable and all-around impressive. One such woman is the prominent Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid bin Sultan Al-Qasimi, who is currently serving as a cabinet minister in the United Arab Emirates and previously headed a successful IT strategy company.
Al-Qasimi exemplifies the potential for MENA women in leadership, but how can one example become a cultural norm? Marcello Bonatto, who runs Re: Coded, a program that teaches young people in Turkey, Iraq and Yemen to become technology leaders, believes that multigenerational education is the key. He believes in the importance of educating the parent along with their offspring, "particularly when it comes to women." Bonatto notes the number of conflict-affected youth who have succeeded through his program—a boot camp training in technology.
The United Nations Women alongside Promundo—a Brazil-based NGO that promotes gender-equality and non-violence—sponsored a study titled, "International Men and Gender Equality Survey of the Middle East and North Africa in 2017."
This study surveyed ten thousand men and women between the ages of 18 and 59 across both rural and urban areas in Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian Authority. It reports that, "Men expected to control their wives' personal freedoms from what they wear to when the couple has sex." Additionally, a mere one-tenth to one-third of men reported having recently carried out a more conventionally "female task" in their home.
Although the MENA region is steeped in historical tribal culture, the current conflict of gender roles is at a crucial turning point. Masculine power structures still play a huge role in these countries, and despite this obstacle, women are on the rise. But without the support of their nations' men this will continue to be an uphill battle. And if change won't come from the culture, maybe it can come from money. By educating MENA's men about these issues, the estimated $27 trillion that women could bring to their economies might not be a dream. Women have been empowering themselves for years, but it's time for MENA's men to empower its women.