Asian firms ‘should encourage career-break women to return’

Women seeking to return to work after a career break represent “a rich talent pool” that can help overcome critical skill shortages, boost an organisation’s diversity and provide measurable benefits such as decreased turnover rates and higher business gains, suggests professional recruitment firm Robert Walters.

The group’s just-published report, entitled ‘Understanding Employers’ Attitudes Towards Women Returning to Work’, is based on an Asia Pacific survey of over 2,200 clients and female professionals across China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

Among its findings were that while two in three of the women surveyed in Hong Kong have taken a career break at some point in their lives, 46% of hiring managers in Asia have not employed any women seeking to re-join the workforce in the past year.

Just over one in three (35%) of all the women professionals polled stated financial reasons were the main motivation in deciding to re-join the workforce, followed by a desire to learn new skills (28%) and lack of fulfilment in staying at home (18%).

The firm comments that over the years there have been concerns voiced by Hong Kong employers when considering whether to hire returning women include how those that have interrupted their career might lack knowledge of the latest industry trends or will not be fully committed to their jobs.

Looking beyond these perceptions, 55% of hiring managers in Asia agreed that specific job experience or skills are the biggest benefits which returning women can bring to the workplace.

“We found that in Hong Kong and across Asia, the capability of women professionals is often questioned once they take maternity leave, or have significant lapses in their career trajectories,” said Matthew Bennett, managing director, Robert Walters Greater China.

“When recruiting this group of talent, we would strongly encourage HR and hiring managers to remain objective and provide them with a level-playing field in order to unlock their full potential.”

The report aims to assist employers in Asia in identifying and addressing possible biases in recruitment and inclusion to ensure women are given the opportunity to re-gain entry into the workforce after a career gap. It also provides recommendations on what organisations can do to change the current attitudes of how returning women are perceived and treated in the workplace in Hong Kong and Asia.

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