"I have been out of the workforce for so long, who will hire me?"
SAP's Back-to-work initiative has recently been launched in Singapore. It aims to support women who are looking to re-enter the workforce after a career break.
When her youngest child started going to school full time, Pauline Loftus Hills found that suddenly she had a lot of spare time on her hands. Initially, she was sceptical about getting back to work, because she had been absent from the scene for about six years. Finally, when she did overcome her mental block and apply for SAP’s ‘Back-to-work’ program , she was pleasantly surprised that they focussed on her skills and not on her years of absence.
Today, Pauline, Project Director, One Billion Lives SAP APJ is the face of SAP’s Back-to-Work, being the first professional to be employed under this programme. In Singapore, SAP launched the Back-to-Work programme on Oct 26, 2016.
We managed to have a tete-a-tete with Mr. Darren Rushworth, Managing Director, SAP Singapore to get to know more about this initiative. Here are some of the highlights of our conversation.
What is SAP’s Back-to-Work programme
“The demands on the family can sometimes take women away from the workforce for a few years. Many of them are highly qualified and talented professionals who are still able to contribute effectively to the workforce.”
“SAP’s Back-to-Work programme is designed to tap into this pool of professionals and provide them with a smooth bridge back into the workforce. Our vision is for this platform to allow women to refresh their existing skills and contribute back to their workforce with their skills and talent, which is transferable to any industry,” said Mr. Rushworth.
The need for Back-to-Work
Mr. Rushworth believes that it is important to have a diverse workforce as it’s proven to have different benefits in terms of styles of thinking and innovation. Women who have gone away from the workforce for a period of time, have experience, are mature and even from a parenting perspective have diverse skills that can be tapped into. The idea is to provide a seamless transition for such women, especially mums getting back to work in Singapore.
“Basically, it’s a 6 month project-based work, where we bring the ladies in and they work in a variety of different projects in various parts of the organisation, not just in technology, it could be in finance, marketing or business. We provide transition back into the workforce, we provide professional mentors, networking opportunities and we are also hoping that potentially some of them will go on and take permanent employment with SAP,” he said.
Go to the next page to know more about the parental benefits offered by SAP!
How to get women to break the ‘Maternal Wall’
The Women in Leadership in Asia Pacific report by Willis Towers Watson recently revealed that almost one in four women take a career break for family reasons, compared to only one in 10 men surveyed.
The same study also confirmed that Asian women who took career breaks to devote more energy to “Tiger Mum” tasks face the “maternal wall” (as opposed to glass ceiling) – career barrier that makes it hard for them to return to work and/or achieve leadership positions.
“We focus on their skills and not their absence”, emphasises Mr. Rushworth. He further elaborates that SAP also provides different working environments, that some projects could be work-from-home, some could be reduced working hours, in order to make the transition back to the workforce easier, for mums getting back to work in Singapore.
Training and skills upgrade
Do women get a chance to train and upgrade their skills?
“We assign a mentor who has been with SAP for a period of time. It’s more like an on-the-job training. It’s not just about the technical skills but core strengths like communication, teamwork, influencing people and attention to detail, not the conventional tick-the-box kind of skills. That’s how SAP recruits in general”, clarifies Mr. Rushworth.
Benefits for parents in the SAP workforce
Mr. Rushworth also mentioned the enhanced benefits that parents in the SAP workforce can now make use of.
Mothers will now enjoy a minimum of 120 days of maternity leave. Mums getting back to work in Singapore after their maternity leave, can look forward to an innovative 4-week phased integration programme allowing them to work 1 day during the first week back to work, 2 days on the second week and so on.
Fathers will also get their paternity leave increased to 3 weeks. Permanent male and female staff can also apply for shorter working hours of between 20 to 40 hours per week to accommodate childcare needs.
How can women market themselves better? Go to the next page to find out!
Women as leaders
Mr.Rushworth said that Singapore is well placed globally in terms of the number of women in workforce. However, the number of women in leadership is still lacking. He believes that boards that are diverse are more impactful, and hence businesses do better.
“One of the things that we keep saying is that people are wired differently, they contribute differently, so we get different perspectives, for example, negotiation skills. When we bounce different ideas, business thrives.”
“In terms of globally, we have specific goals for SAP, we want at least 25% of our managers and leaders need to be female. In Singapore ,we have already achieved that- 30% are leaders already.”
How can women market themselves better
Mr. Rushworth thinks that the biggest barrier for a woman is the woman herself. In fact, he had a very interesting way to put it.
“If I have a job and the job has 10 requirements, a lady looks at that and thinks, she only has 9 of those and she can’t apply. A man may have half of that, he still goes ahead and applies, and thinks it’s his job and that he totally deserves it!”
He has just this to say to all mums getting back to work in Singapore, “So, please, take that first step, have the confidence to apply, get out of your comfort zone.”
Finally, this is what Pauline has to say,“The opportunity to be employed under SAP’s Back-to-Work programme has provided me with the bridge that I need to close any gaps in my professional experience that might have existed from being out of the workforce for six years.”
"My professional confidence is back and I didn’t take as long as I imagined enhancing my skills and contributing effectively to my team."
"Beyond my professional achievements, this is also an excellent opportunity for me to be a role model to my own daughter as well as other women who are taking their first steps to get back into the folds of the professional workforce.”
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