Breaking barriers to support refugee women into careers - Refugee Council
March 7, 2022

Breaking barriers to support refugee women into careers

When Sifa embarked on her degree in psychology she hoped to one day work as a psychologist, helping people and building the career she’d worked so hard for. But when war forced her to flee to the UK, not only did she lose her home but also the career prospects she’d once dreamed of. As a refugee woman, Sifa is just one of thousands of displaced women who have struggled to find a future in employment as they battle the double stigma associated with being both a refugee and a woman.

Arriving in a new country, community and culture and carrying the trauma they have experienced in fleeing violence, refugee women are then confronted with multiple barriers in finding work and rebuilding their lives, made worse because of their gender.

Inequality affects women everywhere, but refugee women feel the sharp edge of those divides daily.

According to Tent, an organisation committed to mobilising the global business community to include refugees, companies regularly overlook refugee women and see hiring them as high risk compared to male refugees. They say women are consistently left out of recruitment opportunities and if they are given employment, they are paid very little compared to men. Across Europe refugee women’s employment rates sit relatively low at 45 per cent, compared with 62 per cent of refugee men.*

Making matters worse, refugee women, like women all over the world, also shoulder a disproportionate share of unpaid care and domestic work, one of the biggest gender gaps between men and women.

But there is hope.

This year’s International Women’s Day theme “Break the Bias” speaks directly to the difficult circumstances faced by refugee women like Sifa. In a world where gender inequality continues to affect women everywhere and their ability to thrive and live safely with agency and autonomy, it calls for “a world free of bias, stereotypes, and discrimination. A world that is diverse, equitable, and inclusive. A world where difference is valued and celebrated.”

In a bid to tackle the huge set of barriers refugee women face when looking for work, the Refugee Council has teamed up with ServiceNow – a global software company that develops cloud-based technologies – to develop a traineeship which is helping open the doors of recruitment for refugee women, whilst meeting a professional need.

Since the start of the pandemic UK companies have faced a huge digital skills shortage with more than 70 per cent of businesses finding themselves short of skilled workers. In partnership, the Refugee Council and ServiceNow have designed an 8-week training ‘Next Gen’ programme which actively encourages recruiting and training refugee women with tech skills to fill that shortage.

The Refugee Council supports both the employers and their students, so that refugees can settle confidently into their new place of work and employers are mentored on the students’ backgrounds and circumstances. At the end of the programme, NextGen students get to design, build and demo an app which they showcase to employers from the ServiceNow ecosystem – who are looking at alternative talent pipelines.

The programme has seen incredible outcomes for NextGen graduates, with two thirds of the uptake from refugee women. Each graduate has successfully landed work-placements or permanent job offers across five employers – and Sifa is one of them.

Having studied Data science as part of her psychology work, the Refugee Council’s suggested she take part in the ServiceNow NextGen programme which she benefited hugely from. She has since started a job as a junior developer which says is going very well.

“Before the programme I was applying for many jobs but it was hard even to get interviews. So this was so good for me,“ she said. “Getting a job afterwards was very fast to be honest. In just three weeks we had the interviews and then the job offers. I was really surprised!”

As International Women’s Day approaches on 8 March, the Refugee Council is privileged to work alongside refugee women like Sifa and in partnership with companies like ServiceNow to help break the bias and tackle the enormous barriers refugee women have faced in successfully securing employment and taking ownership of their careers for a brighter future.

When women are given opportunities, the depths of their achievements are limitless – and communities around the world reap the benefit of their contribution.

*Source: Employment and Integration In Europe