It's tough enough to go to a job interview. It takes a load of confidence and belief in yourself to walk in and convince the prospective employer that you are absolutely the best person to hire - and not look like an arrogant pinhead while you're doing it.
But it's brutal to have to face entering the work force again after you've been out of it for a long time - or if you've never been there at all. And it's especially tough if you're on a tight budget and can't dress the part.
Throw in the difficulties for women who have been staying home raising babies, taking care of the home and family for some time, and the longer they've been "stay-home mums", the harder it is for them to feel like they're capable, competent women in their own eyes, much less in the eyes of potential bosses. In general, society's view of women who have chosen homemaker as their full time job isn't all that great. And if you're in a low-income family, the stigma is even worse.
Sure we've made a little progress after decades of discussion and defending but still, there is an underlying "Oh, you just stay home with your kids" sort of attitude. Stay-home mums see their sisters or friends getting promotions, becoming successful entrepreneurs, or attending board meetings, and they feel as though staying home to change nappies, scrub toilets and bake cookies is meaningless.
Of course, this isn't the truth of the job, but women can often feel as though they do not measure up to their business-minded counterparts, and think they have nothing to offer. And it is an even bigger kick in the head when those business-minded women think so, too. Shouldn't we be supporting each other and valuing each other equally, even if what we're bringing to the table is a plate of warm cookies instead of a brilliant powerpoint presentation?
And what if you're an immigrant? You're completely lost about how to dress and what to say and how to present yourself. You may not be great at English. Self-esteem plummets. Confidence vanishes. How can they see themselves as empowered, capable women who can still learn and contribute to the world?
Now imagine feeling like that and finding yourself in the position where you have to - or want to - get back in the game, find a job outside of the home, and feel like a real grown-up again. All you've got to wear are your comfy clothes for babies who have one end or the other leaking on you, or for being on your knees wiping up spills, or for any number of other messy jobs. You can't remember the last time you had any need for jewellery or a decent pair of shoes.
And you've got no idea what people are wearing any more, or what might even look good on you. Just finding the right clothing and accessories can be daunting, let alone having to be comfortable with who you are, what you're offering, and then successfully communicate it to your prospective boss.
How could you possibly feel your best and knock the socks off an employer if you don't feel good about yourself?
There is a fantastic solution to these many concerns and if women everywhere would pick up the ball and run with it, an awful lot of women around the world could be helped. Imagine a place where you could go when you don't have any money but you find free advice on what to wear, how to impress, and how to search for the right job. Imagine if you could have someone teach you how to network, or give you some assistance with assertiveness, and what if there was a huge closet full of beautiful business attire and accessories that had been given up by women who didn't need them any more?
I don't know if there are other places like this out there but recently I learned about a wonderful non-profit organisation in Calgary that is helping to empower women in creating better futures for themselves. It's called Making Changes and it's all about helping women transition into the work force, giving them some of the tools, life skills and clothing that they need. There's even a program for teenaged girls from low-income families. And women can take the free Employment and Life Skills program, which includes information about how to change jobs, or go back to school.
If there were more such programs around the globe, can you imagine how this would impact our societies and the world as a whole?
Although women have been fighting for equality and independence for a long time, we've still got a long way to go. Think about it: Many women remain oppressed by culture, governments or partners. Are we ever going to find our way to true equality?
If we remain locked in limiting self-beliefs, we will never get anywhere. We have significant contributions to make to the world. And if there is something that can be done to help move women out of the house and into businesses, offices or volunteer positions, isn't that a win/win for everyone?
And with approximately half of the global population being female, doesn't it make sense that this would benefit the world in a huge way? Wouldn't it be an incredible thing if businesswomen in cities everywhere saw how much good they could do their communities by creating programs like this? As women, we are generally nurturers. Shouldn't we be helping to empower other women contribute their gifts to society, whether in work or as volunteers?
Seems to me to be a damned fine idea.
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