Margy Mommertz completed her contract role as an HR Director in a company in October 2023 and wanted to seek greater job stability. “I wanted to find my way into a full-time career with security in a stable company, and not contract work,” she says.

The transition should have been a smooth one — she has, after all, worked in the region for more than two decades — but what followed was a difficult period where Mommertz was greeted with deafening silence when she relentlessly applied for jobs, even though she matched the job requirements. “You don’t get any feedback in this market from many recruiters, which is terrible. You think, ‘Oh my goodness, I have applied for 100 jobs. Am I that useless?’ No, you are not, but it demotivates you.”

She feels that she struggled to find a job partly because she is over the age of 50. “Ageism is rife in the UAE and I was finding it difficult to compete with 40-year-olds in the market even though I was experienced and qualified,” she adds.

A friend suggested that she get in touch with Niki Mapouras-Hyder who had started the platform NMH last year to help women rejoin the workforce after a career break. The two started working together in January this year — there were one-on-one coaching and mentoring sessions, workshops and conversations that went beyond just dispensing career advice and focused on personal development to help her regain her confidence. “She gave me tools to boost my confidence, update my skills and made sure that I was aligned with the market again,” recalls Margy. They also identified networking events that Margy could attend to meet the right people.

She finally found her dream job and started work about four weeks ago. “I am loving it because I am getting to collaborate with people — people with my values and ethics, in a great work environment. I thought I had lost the knack but no, I haven’t. I am doing incredibly well,” she smiles.

Such platforms help women to re-enter the workforce by equipping them with new-age skills (like, for instance, using artificial intelligence at work), upskilling, polishing their interviewing skills and revamping their resumes. “I wanted to create a community and platform for women who had taken a career gap for whatever reason, where they could also help each other out,” explains Niki Mapouras-Hyder. “Sometimes, you might not be looking at the right places, so we will sit down and have a roadmap for how you are going to find your way back into the corporate world — what job-hunting you have done so far, what are the blockers that are there, and whether you need to refresh your skills or upskill yourself.”

A new job platform for women

Rejoin was launched last month by co-founders Ayshwarya Chari and Shraddha Barot Amariei. Its website invites CVs from women who want to start a new innings at the workplace after a career break — the CVs are uploaded by the team after a review process to ensure that the candidate is “presented in the best way possible”.

Each candidate’s profile includes vital information, like reasons for a career break, educational qualifications, work experience and expected salary, and, according to Chari, they have more than 75 CVs on the website. Having led small businesses themselves, the co-founders hope that the platform would be a ‘perfect marriage’ between candidates who are on the lookout for flexible jobs, and companies, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which offer such jobs. “The big corporates have returnship programmes in place, while SMEs don’t, but they are not resistant to the idea of hiring such candidates,” points out Amariei.

Being moms and entrepreneurs themselves, the duo wants to ensure that women have an equitable workplace. “A woman who has been out of the workforce for two years finds it difficult to get back for a number of reasons — for starters, if you apply for a job online, the algorithm that is in place would, very often, not even let employers see these CVs. And over time, the population here has increased by over 24 per cent, so there is a lot of competition,” explains Chari.

Amariei, who’s even lost out on projects during her pregnancies, explains that the idea is also to normalise conversations about school pick-ups and sick children at the workplace. “We consult with clients who are, sometimes, very senior male professionals, and we openly say that we need to step out or can’t make it for a meeting because my little one has been unwell or there is a PTA meeting that we need to go to. Thankfully, we have seen good results because they realise that it’s not affecting our performance in any way. In fact, a woman, especially a mother, has very little time to waste — she will come in, get the job done and leave.”

They are now in the middle of hiring an HR consultant and recruiter to stay in touch with companies and candidates, and have plans to launch skill-based training programmes and coffee sessions with candidates at their office space. When we spoke, they were also gearing up for their first official event at Female Fusion on April 25 to raise awareness about their platform among potential candidates and small business owners and help them to connect. “We also have great support from the British Chamber of Commerce and we will be doing a networking plus coaching event with them in May,” says Amariei.

A bootcamp for mothers

Kutubna Cultural Center in Dubai held the first session of their brand new programme called ‘Mothers/Work’ on April 23, for mothers who want to return to work. The ‘bootcamp’ includes four sessions that are spread across this month and next month, and mothers can drop their children at the in-house play area before attending these sessions. “The main goal is for women to learn how to have the career they want and how to present their applications more effectively so that they can get interviews and ultimately, jobs,” explains founder and director, Shatha Almutawa.

“We will be looking at job announcements, Linkedin profiles, CVs, cover letters, resumes, and we will do some practice interviews as well where the women can get to know each other and give feedback,” she says, adding that Eman Al Yousuf, who oversees hiring and volunteer programmes at the Emirates Literature Foundation, is expected to be there at the last session of the bootcamp. Six women attended the first session. “The women can also look forward to working very closely with me… I will be talking about how we choose candidates at the centre and why we picked them,” says Almutawa, adding that she will conduct such programmes in the future depending on the demand.

Organising such programmes was not the primary goal of the centre — in fact, Almutawa started the centre last year to highlight Khaleeji authors and literature, music, art and culture through its workshops and bookshop. As the mother of a toddler, she was excited about hiring other mothers at the centre. “But when I did the interviews, they would say, ‘I’ve never worked and I’ve only taken care of my children’ or ‘I have no experience and I don’t know anything about work’. But we develop so many skills while taking care of our children and we need to recognise that we can be valuable members of the team that we could join.”

As someone who is in a position to hire people, Almutawa explains that a gap in one’s CV never bothers her as long as candidates are able to demonstrate an ability and willingness to learn new things and pick up new skills. “They should be able to explain what they can offer, and also be clear about the kind of position they need — it’s a matter of presenting what you can do,” she adds.



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