Julie Nguyen is the founder of Crunchmoms, a professional network based in the UAE for talented, working mothers.
There is a popular phrase from an article in The Atlantic that made headlines in 2012 stating 'women still can't have it all.' Well, I'm a firm believer that women CAN have it all but perhaps not all at once, especially not in the midst of the pandemic we're currently in.
Now nearly a decade later, 2021 has been stamped as 'The Great Resignation' and I honestly cannot ponder anymore how badly this has impacted the entire workforce and how much more difficult it is for the working women, mums, and single mums of the world.
While some may say there is progress on the gender equality front, there is still no major improvement to be seen in the number of females represented at the leadership or even middle management level, according to research by McKinsey.
The media and social media world have raised awareness around the need for more women in the workplace and how a balanced gender representation at the board level contributes to a company's bottom line, yet unfortunately, actions are not taken fast enough.
The current reality is that this economy we are in is failing to attract and retain female talent in the workforce. Regionally, HR recruiters and leaders are avoiding CVs with a career gap and asking women in job interviews if they are pregnant or have children, in order to determine the likelihood of proceeding with the recruitment process. Furthermore, multinational companies and government entities are not able to change their policies, progression plans, or provide sufficient development opportunities for their female employees fast enough to keep them.
While this is a big loss for corporate companies, it is opening up new avenues and opportunities for the women themselves, the gig economy, and the startup and SME ecosystem that is growing in the world, especially in the Middle East.
We can very clearly see that the workforce is at risk of losing more educated and experienced female professionals across industries and specialties. But, these women are strong, fearless, and determined to make a living for themselves and have it all. They are starting their passion projects and turning them into revenue-generating businesses. Many are raising investments and hiring the type of talent and culture they did not have in their time. Some are independent freelancers supporting the same corporate companies they left and are doing better than before.
If you are a woman and a mum with strong career ambitions, stay resilient, focused, and most importantly, actively marketable. Time off and away makes it more difficult to jump back, but it can be done. Keep the right women, support, and network around you and play your part in this lifetime to contribute to equality in the economy. Your career is a long-term journey, so redefine what success means for you based on the current stage you are at in life rather than following conventional success metrics.
If you are in the startup ecosystem, it is a first step to talk about your experience but we need you to support, mentor, and invest in these women and their businesses. Remember, women make up nearly 50 per cent of startups and SMEs in Dubai, and this number will continue to go up.
If you are in the corporate world, stop hiding behind these outdated policies and make a change loudly and immediately to coach and mentor your female talent and create a better system and foundation for them to succeed, otherwise, you will lose them, and more money.
Older, established companies need to embed genuine initiatives to institutionalise real change. It is imperative for businesses to focus on recruitment, retention, representation, advancement, and pay, and most importantly, that top leadership acknowledges there is a problem that needs to be addressed. As for new, young companies, they need to adopt such policies from the start and if it is not recognised and actioned immediately, there is a similar path the organisation will face.
It is not simply about treating this as a one-off exercise to tick the box, but more so it is working hand-in-hand with the right organisations, changemakers, policymakers, and people to enact the envisioned change from the ground up and top-down. Working women and mums will have it all in this new disrupted economy we are creating. Eventually, balance will be had by mothers and seen in the workforce, and together we will make new headlines ten years from now about the new generation of working mums. If the world is determined to change, women CAN have it all.