Written by Margie Fishman Tuesday, April 24 2012
When Lee Edwards was let go from her office manager job four years ago, she thought she’d find a replacement position in short order.
It took a year before she received her first rejection letter. Before that, companies simply ignored her altogether.
Last year, Edwards enrolled in BPI group’s free job counseling program in Chicago. The global management and human resources firm, headquartered in Paris with offices in Chicago, set the lofty goal of trying to get 100 women back to work through mentoring, support groups and personalized job search training.
Within five months, Edwards had landed a job as a paralegal at a start-up law firm. Through BPI, she revised her resume to focus on transferable skills and called on her network of contacts for job leads.
As of March 2011, the unemployment rate for women was 8.3 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Labor statistics. While that represents a decline in unemployment over the previous year, it is still a smaller improvement than what men have experienced. The unemployment rate for men averaged 10.5 percent in 2010 and had declined to 9.3 percent in March 2011. Analysts point out that women are disproportionately likely to work in the public sector, which has lost nearly 400,000 jobs.
While BPI invited 100 women to participate in the training, only 68 took advantage of it. Personal, family or spousal needs interfered. Of the 68 participants, 40 had found work by last month, which exceeded BPI’s expectations.
Among them was a former pharmaceutical saleswoman who now teaches Zumba in underserved communities and another woman who became a freelance book editor with a pet photography business on the side.
BPI worked with JVS Chicago, a nonprofit career counseling agency, to identify candidates for the program.
“They received about 100 hours a month of training, including webinars, social media tools and interview coaching. That is more extensive than what companies typically pay for through outplacement services,” noted Davies. “Outplacement budgets are down to one month of training or even just one workshop,” she said.
BPI also enlisted resources firm-wide, including its executive coaching team. “In today’s market, networking is one of the most successful ways to find new positions,” said Davies, adding that women should refresh their “people skills” by joining professional associations and requesting informational interviews. Low self-esteem is a common stumbling block.
Edwards overcame her fear of having to call people she hadn’t communicated with in a decade. She stayed motivated through group meetings, where she felt accountable to the other women in similar situations.
“They offered me the support that I was not alone,” she said. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Read about more initiatives for working women:
At the current rate, it won't be till 2058 that women receive equal pay. The White House hopes its Equal Pay App Challenge will speed up the process.
It's an unfortunate truth that the face of global poverty is often female. The Third Billion Campaign seeks to empower women as economic actors in underprivleged parts of the world.
Margie Fishman is an award-winning journalist with more than a dozen years of experience contributing to national newspapers, magazines, websites and trade publications. As a former beat reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and Raleigh News & Observer, she covered politics, business, housing and education, and was dispatched to the field to report on Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Margie’s list of freelance clients has included Atlanta Woman, National Geographic, Newsday, Wise Bread, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Emory University, Georgia Magazine and many more. She writes frequently about trends in personal finance on her website, www.margiereports.com.