Big businesses join push to entice women back into IT after career breaks

Wellingtonian Stacey Ruscoe says the Return to IT initiative normalises the challenges faced by many women returning to ...
TOM PULLAR-STRECKER/FAIRFAX NZ

Wellingtonian Stacey Ruscoe says the Return to IT initiative normalises the challenges faced by many women returning to the workforce.

Several businesses have joined with the Government to try to support and encourage women with information technology skills to return to the workforce.

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) policy director Kim Connolly-Stone said the "pilot" initiative was primarily aimed at women who had been out of the industry for two to five years.

A website has been set up for women to lodge their CVs. Recruitment firm Ice Professionals will try to match applicants with roles available at insurer Cigna, ANZ, Transpower, Intergen, Westpac and at the ministry itself.

Stacey Ruscoe, who left her job as a project manager for a small web development firm nine years ago to bring up her children, aged 6 and 8, said the programme was inspiring.

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Ruscoe said she was just now thinking about job hunting but it seemed a bit overwhelming.

"I am lacking confidence and I don't know where I sit anymore.

Many parents take career breaks to bring up children, but MBIE boss Carolyn Tremain says caring for elderly relatives ...
GRANT MATTHEW/STUFF

Many parents take career breaks to bring up children, but MBIE boss Carolyn Tremain says caring for elderly relatives will become a growing factor also.

"My partner works 11 hours. My priorities have definitely changed and for me to go back to work it would have to be something that still allowed me to be a parent and be involved in my children's school activities."

She felt her worries and concerns had been "normalised" by the Return to IT initiative, she said.

"It inspires me that maybe I can get back there." 

Connolly-Stone said the ministry would be providing "wrap-around support" for applicants and learning what the best way was to reintegrate women back into the sector.

The goal was to increase diversity in the workforce and help the industry with the skills shortages it was facing, she said.

MBIE chief executive Carolyn Tremain forecast more people would take career breaks to support elderly relatives. 

"Taking the decision to be out of a career for a while can be quite a tough one."

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Andrew Cleland, a member of the National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women, said "interruptability" as well as flexibility could be a key issue for returning workers.

"Interruptability doesn't get talked about very much, but the reality is that when the creche rings and says 'your child must be picked up now', someone has to go."

With the percentage of the population in employment "keeping going up and up" in New Zealand, the number of people free to pick up non-work responsibilities was decreasing, he said.

"We need flexibility, but above all else we need employers who will live with interruptability."

The Return to IT initiative has been funded through to the middle of next year.

 - Stuff

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