GUEST COMMENT: Why UBS has got the right idea about working mothers

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Most people employed in banking have experienced the anxiety of returning to work after a holiday of more than three days: it feels like a whole year's worth of activity has taken place in the time you were away and you have to pedal extremely hard just to catch up.

Can you imagine then how it would feel if you have been out of the financial markets raising children for a period of several years and wanted to return? In that time your organisation will probably have rebranded, sold off two divisions, and gone from being a dominant domestic player to an international outfit with operations in 23 countries.

International banks aren't renowned for giving women faced with this kind of challenge a helping hand back into the workplace. However, UBS is going against the grain. A few months ago it invited 35 females who had been out of the workforce for at least 18 months to participate in a two-day event called Career Comeback, in partnership with the Australian Graduate School of Management.

Day one was all about 'individual empowerment' and 'achieving clarity' (including career planning, networking, identifying personal motivators for returning to work, and dealing with competing interests in one's life).

Day two focused on business conditions and recent changes in the market. Participants were treated to a market update by two of UBS's senior business heads. They were then partnered with a senior UBS employee to discuss day-to-day roles and the challenges they may face.

Sounds good on paper, right? But does this kind of get-together actually get women back to work, or is it just a well-meaning talk-fest? Fortuitously, I happen to have a good friend (let's call her Hannah) who participated in the event.

With 10 years' experience in asset management in Hong Kong and an engaging personality (I promise I am not biased), Hannah is a hiring manager's dream. And after a five-year career break with three children, she wants a job.

On the softer side of things, Hannah says the event helped her assess and understand her personal motivation for returning, and the type of role that would satisfy her. She also enjoyed networking with others in the same situation and has kept in touch with some of them.

And the two days of talking ended up generating a very concrete result. Through a contact she met at the seminar Hannah landed her ideal role and is now happily back in the world of finance. And no, in case you're wondering, the job isn't with UBS, so the event's success wasn't limited to this one bank.

This is by no means the only 'women in banking' type of event held in financial markets and UBS is certainly not the only bank interested in the market of women returning to the workforce. However, I have not seen this level of creative investment previously, and it's something that other banks should give some serious thought to.

Edwina Hodgkinson is an independent training consultant specialising in financial markets. She has over 15 years' experience in recruitment, human resources and training with roles based in London, Asia and Sydney. Edwina's previous roles include head of recruitment and careers at Macquarie Bank and head of human resources at Zurich Capital Markets.

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