The battle for top talent and highly qualified employees is in full force across Europe, and particularly in Switzerland. The large number of out-of-work or part-time working mothers has great potential for Swiss businesses that lack highly qualified employees.

However, even in Switzerland, gender equality at work and the rehiring of mothers back from maternity leave is an issue that requires more attention. Only one in five company directors in Switzerland is female, with a high number of women in part-time work due to the slow adoption of policies that support working mothers. Focussing on hiring women after their maternity leave or hiring part-time working mothers could be a step in the right direction.

To get on that path, companies need to start opening up to the idea. To begin with, there is a need for greater support for working mothers and providing opportunities to upskill. Women returning to their old jobs, or starting new ones, after maternity leave still face various challenges: age discrimination, gender bias, reorganisations and rank degradation, to name just a few. Across the globe there are situations where women in high positions are permanently replaced or their positions are cancelled. A year or two after they return from maternity leave, they are degraded to a lower-ranking position, sometimes even paid less, simply because they had been on leave during the time of reorganisation and unable to fight for themselves.

On the positive side, organisations are beginning to assess the situation and recognise the potential therein. Some organisations are even one step ahead by looking at how they can leverage women’s potential and get them to successfully return to work or confidently reposition themselves in the current job market following a career break.

One example is the University of St.Gallen, which designed the “Women Back to Business” programme to strengthen the skills of women returning to work.

Essentially a “mini-MBA” programme, “Women Back to Business” lasts 21 class days over a 12-month period and trains women in skills such as marketing, organisation and process management, leadership and human resources management, finance and more. Skills workshops and modules are accompanied by group and individual sessions that offer support and encourage personal development. The programme is open to all women who have a university degree, took a career hiatus due to family obligations, and would like to return to the workforce in an international environment.

Breaking the mould

The technology sector in Switzerland, as in many other countries, is male-dominated, but some businesses are trying to make a change. For example, leading IT services companies such as ServiceNow and DXC Technology Switzerland are increasingly looking to hire from diverse talent pools to support their business growth.

That’s why ServiceNow and DXC Switzerland partnered with the University of St.Gallen to develop a new collaboration within the programme — an 8-week flexible training course that enables women to enter the world of work in the ServiceNow ecosystem. The first participants who completed this new ServiceNow module at the end of January 2020 are already going through the shortlisting process, with DXC Switzerland looking to hire the best candidates as business and technical consultants starting by March 2020.

As with any collaboration, its success is determined by the organisations that are involved and how they work together. This one-of-a-kind partnership between the University of St.Gallen, ServiceNow and DXC Switzerland has proven to be incredibly successful due to shared values of diversity and inclusion, and of creating opportunities for people from a variety of backgrounds.

As one student says, “I once had a rich professional career in IT until I became a mother and lost my subject matter expertise. The collaboration between ServiceNow, DXC and the University of St.Gallen has created an amazing opportunity to reskill individuals and has given me everything I need to learn skills that are in high demand.”

Across the globe, organisations are finding innovative ways to leverage the power of women to build a stronger, more diverse workforce. Learn more about successful programmes in Brazil and Australia.