Women Back To Business

Are you finding yourself thinking about staying in Switzerland longer than you imagined when you first arrived?  Have you been a trailing spouse taking care of the kids that are now more independent, giving you the opportunity to go back to work? Are you thinking of a career change and would like to stay in Switzerland for your next role?  If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions, or are contemplating similar challenges, then you should consider a new program launched by the University of St. Gallen.  Now offered in English AND in Basel, "Women Back to Business" is designed specifically for women in these circumstances.  We spoke with Patricia Widmer, Program Manager at the University of St. Gallen, Executive School of Management, Technology and Law which offers the program:

Patricia, what are the basic considerations women should be aware of when trying to re-enter the workforce or change careers in Switzerland?

Returning to work after a sizeable break or to reposition themselves on the job market can be difficult for many women including academics. Understandably, companies want to manage the risks associated with staffing decisions and can be cautious when it comes to applications from women returning to work, or from women who would like to take on more challenging tasks with a higher workload. In particular, companies might focus too much on the missing and outdated technical, industry and market knowledge but overlook key qualifications still relevant from previous work experiences and useful skills acquired during the break such as improved communication skills, a greater ability to deal with conflict as well as organizational and project management expertise.

For many women, the most difficult barriers to a targeted application are usually a lack of awareness of their personal and professional impact, and a partly unrealistic assessment of their own skills.

Furthermore, it is crucial for women to use their network and spread the word that they are looking for a new job opportunity.

Are there specific things Expat women should consider?

Expat women might find using their network challenging, as they first have to build up a new network in Switzerland having left their old contacts in their home countries. In this regard, the “Women Back to Business” program can support Expat women in a variety of ways. Our professors, coaches and staff know the Swiss job market very well (especially Swiss companies with an international focus) and can therefore help Expat women to build up their own, new professional network within Switzerland.

In addition, they will find support in applying for jobs in Switzerland which includes such specifics as how to write a CV in this part of the world to particular interview techniques.

What does the St.Gallen program offer to help women with workforce re-entry or career change goals?

Many further education courses – which are likely to be of interest to work returners or women who would like to reposition themselves – often have access requirements, which are designed to combine with specific occupations, or involve training sessions which are difficult to integrate into everyday family life. The University of St. Gallen has therefore developed a program that is specifically tailored to the situation of women returners. In the “Women Back to Business” program, women looking to return to the workforce are becoming fit for the labor market, not only through technical training in all major areas of management, but also through individual and group coaching sessions, as well as a variety of workshops. The management education for women at the University of St. Gallen is building a real bridge to success as the results from the external evaluation of the previous four "Women Back to Business" programs showed: Three-quarters of the 80 graduates have managed to re-enter or transition into a qualified position, and more than three-quarters, consider the contribution of the certificate program “Woman Back to Business” (WBB-HSG) to their successful return to work, as “very high” or “rather high”. Typically, the largest personal benefit which emerges from the program for participants is the strengthening of their professional self-esteem.

Does the program offer recognized accreditation? Networking?

The program works very closely with partner companies and other cooperation partners. They offer not only financial support in the form of partial scholarships, but are also practically involved in the program, providing classrooms onsite as well as internships in their companies. In this way women will become acquainted with potential future employers in a variety of contexts. Our partner companies and cooperation partners ensure that course content is closely related to practice and guarantee early contacts to potential employers. The participants will be able to widen their professional network with managers in leadership positions as well as with women who find themselves in a similar situation as theirs.

The University of St. Gallen is AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) accredited as well as EFMD Equis (European Quality Improvement System) accredited.

Are there any specific industries or functional roles that have strong labor demand which St. Gallen can help prepare women for?

Granted, many women cannot work in their earlier professions after an extended family break. A physicist may no longer be able to participate in a research project after ten years of absence. However, there are a number of exciting jobs where the skills of these women come to fruition and where their life experiences have advantages. This is the case in all activities that require a high level of general consulting expertise, coupled with specialized knowledge, such as a project management or customer advisory roles.

The ability of many of these well educated women to lead complex solution-oriented projects is enhanced by their experiences and networking during the program. Women with greater life experience are therefore viewed more seriously and professionally, and are appreciated both by their colleagues and customers.

For more information on the Women Back to Business program offered by St. Gallen please visit their website HERE.