Many Women in Asia Who Left the Workforce Find It Difficult to Return

New research by executive recruitment firm Robert Walters finds that 65% of women in Asia have stepped off the career ladder at some point in their professional career, often for maternity leave, to take care of children or aging parent, or for study breaks.

The study also found that they then face difficulties when they try to return to the job market. Almost half of hiring managers surveyed in Asia (46%) have not employed any returning women in the past year. The figure is highest in Malaysia (52%), followed by Singapore (49%) and Hong Kong (24%).

And yet 88% of Southeast Asia employers say they face talent shortages, according to Robert Walters. "Successfully attracting and retaining returning women represents a significicant competitive advantage to organizations," it argues.


“The capability of women professionals is often questioned once they take maternity leave, or have significant lapses in their career trajectories," says Joanne Chua, Account Director, Southeast Asia & Greater China, Robert Walters Singapore.

"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.”

Robert Walters finds that most common forms of discrimination faced by returning women in Asia are unequal salaries (48%) and lack of career advancement opportunities (38%).


Robert Walters recommended four action steps for companies to take.

1. Career breaks should be viewed as opportunities, instead of drawbacks. They can serve as continuums of selfdevelopment and allow women to learn new skills and enhance old ones. 

2. Not only do returning women serve as viable solutions to the skill shortages, they are also highly engaged and are generally hungry for a challenge. 

3. Organizations are encouraged to develop recruitment strategies that are tailored towards hiring returning women. This involves training hiring managers to help them better identify the potential of women who wish to re-join the workforce. 

4. Firms can also launch initiatives that help make corporate cultures more inclusive for returning women, such as mentorship sessions headed by senior women leaders.


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