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This Government-Funded Program Is Helping Mums Get Back to Paid Work on Their Own Terms

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Latest Stories

Jamila Rizvi is calling for mums to apply for one of 150 fully-funded places in this curated leadership course.

Women undertake the majority of Australia’s unpaid caring, the economic impact of which has doubled in the past ten years. Australia has a really low participation rate in the workforce from mums, but many mums do wish to return to paid work, but they don't feel it's possible. Certainly our country isn't structured to support those women the way many Europen mothers are. Future Women, a resource for women in the workplace, has created a program to help those women. "Project Return supports women returning to work after having children and give them the confidence, knowledge and connections they’re going to need for a rewarding and secure career," says Jamila Rizvi who helped create the program and campaigned for it's government funding, which was approved in March this year. Here's what to know about it.

What is it? Project Return is a fully digital 12-month course that can be done from home, whenever suits you. If that's at 2am while breastfeeding, that's A-OK. It's a scholarship, with 150 available places, each valued at little over $5,000 and fully funded by the government, so you're paid contribution is zero. "It's the kind of leadership and training program companies usually only invest in for their soon-to-be executives," says Rizvi.

Why do we need it? "For women, one of the most dangerous times, in terms of the stalling of income, and also in setting them back in their careers, is when they have a baby," says Rizvi, "And that is an unfair, candid reality. The data suggest that women’s salaries peak around the time they have babies, while men’s salaries continue to grow, and that is just not good enough. This program, for us, is our contribution to trying to bridge that gap so we can prepare women for the challenges that might face when they return to the workforce but also invest in new mums with a serious leadership and training program. So for us, we’re putting that money into women returning to work because we know that they have those career aspirations and can absolutely do it too."

What will I learn? The program works whether you’re returning to your previous work place or starting at a new one, and is for anyone for whom leadership and executive skills will take women further in their careers. "There is broader education around career pathways and opportunities beyond where you’re working now, but the real focus is on being able to articulate your strength and abilities, how to manage a team, and manage your boss," say Rizvi. "We educate on how to transition back to work and make it as smooth as possible, what to expect in terms of gender bias in the work place after you’ve had a child and how you can combat that at a personal level. As well as training around how to ask for what you want, different model of operation — whether that's job sharing or flexible hours — and giving you the language to make paid work work for you and your family."

Is it for me? If you're currently thinking, "that all sounds amazing, but I don’t know if I’m up to it", or "I don’t think I’m good enough to take a spot" or "I don’t think they'd want me". Then Rizvi confirms, you are exactly the person they want. "The whole idea of this program is to work in a really supportive and understanding way with women who have those doubts. I was one of those women after having my little boy. We want to make mums feel prepared and send them back with new skills rather, ready to continue to grow their career and florish."

Ready to apply?

Future Women are looking for 150 women who have taken time out from paid employment due to caring responsibilities at any point in their career. Applications open 16 May and close on 19 June. You can Apply Here. All applicants will be contacted with an outcome in July 2022.

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