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I had been out of the workforce for over 15 years. Then I applied for a job with Mamamia.

This is part one in our series on The Encoreship, a ground-breaking initiative by Alpha-H providing employment opportunities to women who have been out of the workforce for an extended period and want to return. Part one covers what The Encoreship is, and how the application process worked. 

At some point many women find themselves looking for work in a very unfamiliar landscape.

It can feel a lot like Robert de Niro in The Intern, where he finds himself retired, and trying to return to the workforce because retirement was not what he hoped it would be. 

He is competing with people decades younger than him. The jobs he is suitable for no longer exist and the jobs that are available he has barely heard of, let alone be qualified to do. 

This is exactly what many women face when they look to return to work after children. The gender gap is nothing new. Women are consistently disproportionately represented in unemployment figures as well as part-time and casual roles. Based on the current data, it is going to take 133 years to reach gender equality in Australia.

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Tina Randello, the Chief Commercial Officer at Alpha-H, explains that research has started to show worrying trends that COVID related job losses were heavily skewed towards women. Four out of five people who lost their jobs in Victoria during 2020 were women. 

In April 2021, the Grattan Institute reported, "Women bore the brunt of the upfront job losses, and they also shouldered more of the unpaid work burden at home. This is the worst recession in living memory for working women, largely because of the unique nature of the downturn: pandemic lockdowns hit women especially hard, and although most have returned to work, too many have not."

With this in mind, Randello started hatching a plan. Alpha-H is an Australian owned global brand that prides itself on advocating for women, and Randello recognised that whatever idea she had to help bridge the gap needed to be significant and meaningful. 

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Image: Supplied.  

Initially, Randello reached out to other like-minded brands including Mamamia, Adore, and DIISH. These early meetings were met with enthusiasm and a strong desire to "make it happen." Nicolle Stuart from Mamamia recalls, "When I presented the idea to the Senior Leadership at Mamamia they were very supportive, this was a tangible way to live Mamamia’s core purpose 'to make the world a better place for women and girls.'"

Both Randello and Stuart recognised that the small gaps women take to have babies easily lead to bigger gaps, and when coupled with the impact of COVID on the workforce, there was a problem. In response, the idea for The Encoreship was born. 

Launched in March 2021, The Encoreship is a first-of-its-kind initiative providing employment opportunities to women who are facing challenges re-entering the workforce after an extended period away.

It was important to Randello when designing The Encoreship that it be solution-focused. There is lots of data and research about the problem. "No longer can we look to others to solve our problems; we have a responsibility as a global brand to use our platform to be part of the solution. We have set out on a journey with one mission, to inspire women through Action and Advocacy," she told Mamamia

The goal of 'The Encoreship’ is that by giving women work experience with tangible outcomes with some great brands, those women will ultimately gain the confidence to do whatever it is they want to do next.  

Nicolle Stuart recalls that going through the process of designing and developing the Encoreship program fundamentally changed her perspective on recruitment. She has become a passionate advocate for how Mamamia can be a part of the solution when it comes to women returning to the workforce after long periods away.

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For participants, The Encoreship involved a full recruitment process for five paid short-term contract positions. All of them were meaningful roles including: Brand Manager - Alpha-H, Content Producer - Mamamia, People & Culture Executive - DIISH, Customer Experience - Adore, and Product Development - ETTITUDE. 

"We see The Encoreship as an incredible initiative that provides us as a business and community with a framework to take meaningful, practical actions to create real-life, long lasting impact in the lives of women seeking to re engage in the workforce," says Managing Director at DIISH, Louise Henry-Hicks.

It was also important that each role offered women the opportunity to find their feet and feel as though they had made a meaningful contribution. The general feeling was that three months would be a good timeframe for both the brands and the encores to meet this key goal. It would also give women the opportunity to gain current relevant experience to demonstrate their skills in a competitive environment. 

In total, there were 229 applications for The Encoreship program.

At Mamamia, there were 56 applications for one Content Producer role. Stuart recalls reading every single application and wishing there was something she could offer everyone. "There is a wealth of untapped talent out there," she said. The recruitment process involved a written task, with 10 applicants progressing to the interview stage. Ultimately, Mamamia offered the Content Producer role as a job share role, to give the opportunity to two women. 

For me, applying for the position with Mamamia was daunting and at times overwhelming. It pushed me completely out of my comfort zone to sell myself into an experience I really wanted. I would have backed out more than once if it wasn’t for my support crew! 

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Each Encore also has the opportunity to receive executive coaching with Six Degrees Executive towards the end of their three month contract. This is to help Encores work out exactly what they want to do next. The 'what’s next' piece will look different for each Encore. 

In part two, we meet some of the Encores and find out how this experience is life-changing for them. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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