Mi-WOW is looking to explore, support, and overcome specific barriers that Migrant Women are facing in Ireland during their job-seeking journeys. Mi-WOW is designed to empower Migrant Women to reach their potential, rebuilding their confidence, and upgrading their skills to facilitate their access to the labour market and/or career progression in ways that are linked to their professional goals. For further information on MiWOW please contact New Communities Partnership at firstname.lastname@example.org
Between July 2020 and February 2021, Mi-WOW ran four online iterations of ‘Returning to the Workforce Training’ aimed at preparing migrant women to go back into the labour market and relaunch their careers in Ireland. The training delivered IT skills sessions, communication skills sessions, information on employment rights and the Irish labour market, and individual career coaching sessions to 40 migrant women living throughout Ireland.
Four of those women have consented to share their stories anonymously. These stories are an example of the resilience and hard work of these women and also of the success the Mi-WOW project has had within its first year of existence.
These stories have been selected in order to shed some light on the complex barriers migrant women face in their journey into and through employment in Ireland, as well as the intersectional experiences of migrant women with different but often overlapping identities and realities. Particularly, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions in the country, and its effect on the labour market.
CASE STUDY 1
Ms. W, originally from Nigeria, is an asylum seeker living in Direct Provision in rural Ireland. She has been in the country for over a year and a half and has a proficient level of English.
Ms. W has third-level qualifications and over 6 years’ experience in the area of PR and Communications in her home country, and she hoped she would be able to work in her area of expertise while her application was processed.
One of the main barriers that Ms. W had faced after arriving in Ireland was the initial impossibility to legally work in the country as an asylum seeker. However, since June 2018 Irish legislation now allows asylum seekers the right to work through a temporary permission to access the labour market5 which she was ultimately able to gain.
Unfortunately, she soon realised that this was not going to be her only barrier. Despite numerous applications, Ms. W was not being called back for interviews. She wasn’t sure whether she was doing something wrong. Living in rural Ireland also meant that her options were limited. “What is so frustrating is that even when you do have a work permit, the only jobs available to us are menial jobs irrespective of our academic qualifications”, Ms. W said.
She learnt about Mi-WOW’s employment training through social media and applied to participate as she was eager to learn skills to better her chances to enter the Irish labour market. To ensure her active participation and access to the training, the Mi-WOW team provided her with a laptop for the duration of the programme.
Putting what she learnt in the Mi-WOW training into practice, Ms. W received a call back for a job interview and was quickly offered a position. Unfortunately, this ultimately did not proceed due to a new wave of COVID-19 in the country.
Ms. W was extremely dedicated to the programme and was always a source of inspiration and encouragement to her fellow classmates. She was also the representative for her fellow asylum seekers at the liaison group of their host community. Her experience living in Direct Provision, along with having been part of the Mi-WOW training with other migrant women, inspired Ms. W to retrain in the area of Psychology and received a full scholarship by a leading university in Dublin, where she has been attending virtual lectures since October 2020.
Ms. W is hopeful for her future in Ireland. In her own words: “Migrant women need to crush every barrier on their way to success with determination”.
CASE STUDY 2
Ms. X is originally from a Middle Eastern country and has a hearing disability. She had lived in Ireland for 2 years when she came in contact with the Mi-WOW team. She holds a Stamp 1G.
Ms. X is a qualified professional in the area of Food Engineering with over 10 years of work experience. After being awarded a prestigious scholarship from her home country, she came to Ireland to complete a MSc degree in her area of expertise in a leading university in Dublin. Despite her severe hearing loss and being an English-as-a-second-language student, she completed her MSc degree in Ireland with First Class Honours.
Even though she has a proficient level of English (spoken and written), qualifications, and skills, she had been unemployed for nearly a year post-graduation when she was referred to the Mi-WOW team by the Irish Wheelchair Association to offer further support in her job-seeking journey.
During Ms. X relentless job-seeking journey in Ireland, she felt she was being automatically rejected by recruiters after being invited to job interviews once she disclosed her hearing disability. On many occasions, the communication was ceased at that point without any further notification or explanation.
As Ms. X is not a sign language user, she relies on the use of closed captioning during video calls to be able to participate. In order to ensure Ms. X’s full accessibility to the online training, the Mi-WOW team reached out to the Irish Deaf Society to find a closed captioning solution for her. Through an artificial intelligent software, closed captions were enabled during the Mi-WOW training for Ms. X. “I was not sure whether online training would work for me but the Mi-WOW team, tutors, and participants were very supportive and positive in every session. I was able to participate actively in all sessions since technical support (closed captioning software) was provided for me”, she said.
Ms. X’s participation in the programme was remarkable. While still in the programme, she was actively applying for jobs and was invited to attend an interview for a position in her area of interest and expertise. The Irish Wheelchair Association, who had been working closely in Ms. X’s case, stepped in to make sure that the recruitment process was inclusive for her, and advised her about available options to make this possible. The organisation for which Ms. X was applying facilitated closed captioning during the interview process. She successfully went through three interview rounds and was offered a job that perfectly matches her skills and experience.
The collaboration between organisations was key to guarantee Ms. X’s successful job-seeking journey. As she put it: “Small supports really make a huge difference”.
In January 2021, Ms. X relocated to a different Irish town to start her new job and her new life in the country.
CASE STUDY 3
Ms. Y, originally from Pakistan, is a HR professional with over 4 years of experience in the area and third-level qualifications, including an MBA. She has been living in Ireland since 2013. Initially, she was in the country under a Stamp 3, which did not allow her to work, but since the birth of her child in 2017 she holds a Stamp 4.9
Ms. Y had been away from the workforce for 7 years, due to family responsibilities, when she joined Mi-WOW’s training. She was eager to start working again but was not being successful in her applications which had affected her self-confidence.
Some of the barriers that Ms. Y felt she was facing were the lack of understanding of how the Irish labour market works, a lack of network in the country, and despite numerous CV submissions not being called back to attend interviews. She also felt that her CV gap and lack of experience in the country could be off-putting to recruiters. Another initial worry from Ms. Y was that unconscious bias could have been playing a role against her due to her use of a hijab.
Ms. Y was highly engaged during the training. She felt empowered with knowledge about the market and her rights. The words of encouragement and support from the Mi-WOW team and tutors were slowly rebuilding her confidence. She started to put into practice the new skills she was learning and was actively looking for a new opportunity throughout the programme.
After getting to two final-round interviews for two separate roles in different organisations, she was never contacted again by one of them. While she did not get the second job, the panel of interviewers was so impressed with her that the next time a suitable role came up in their organisation they immediately thought of her and contact her. She was offered a job in her area of interest with career progression potential. After a 7-years career break and amidst a pandemic Ms. Y finally relaunched her career in Ireland.
Ms. Y sees the opportunity of a clearer career path laid out in front of her. She said: “One thing I learnt from my experience in Mi-WOW is that resilience is definitely a skill and reinventing yourself will lead you forward.”
CASE STUDY 4
Ms. Z is originally from Argentina but also holds European citizenship – which she though would make her job-seeking process easier. When she joined the Mi-WOW training, she had been in Ireland for 5 months. She holds qualifications in Business and Administration with over 10 years of experience in the area and has an upper-intermediate level of English.
She moved to Ireland with the dream to build a new life in the country and to continue her professional career here. Upon arrival, Ms. Z began looking for a job. Unfortunately, at the same time, the COVID-19 pandemic had also hit the country and job opportunities became scarce.
She decided to keep on learning while looking for employment and completed two online certificates with Irish institutions, one in the area of bookkeeping and payroll management and another one in executive secretarial skills.
After completion of these certificates, she kept searching for more online opportunities or ways to retrain to increase her chances of finding employment, when Ms. Z came across the Mi-WOW training.
Sadly, her efforts to find a new job in the middle of a pandemic had not being successful so far. During the training, Ms. Z identified some of the barriers she believed she was facing, such as writing a CV and cover letter for Irish standards, lack of experience in the country, and a lack of network. She also felt that her age could be a reason why recruiters were not calling her back for interviews.
Ms. Z was a very dedicated and committed participant with strong employment goals and a will to relaunch her career. She worked with the Mi-WOW team and tutors to overcome some of these barriers, and she felt she could now have a chance against other applicants.
Following the completion of her training with Mi-WOW, Ms. Z got offered a fixed-term temporary role as an account administrator for 3 months with the possibility of extension. When this 3-month period finalised, she was offered a permanent position. Unfortunately, the current pandemic forced the company to downsize, and they didn’t have another choice than to let her go. Although disappointed by the situation, Ms. Z knew she had the skills to try again. Immediately after, she applied for another position, and she was offered another temporary role, this time as a front-line worker as a COVID-19 contact tracer during the toughest time of the pandemic in Ireland. She worked in this role for 2 months but due to the decrease in the numbers of cases, it meant the position was no longer needed and her contract was ended.
Ms. Z’s professional career has clearly benefited from the tools and knowledge learnt during the Mi-WOW programme. Her determination and previous qualifications and further training were also crucial to gain employment in Ireland. Unfortunately, lack of stability and poor working conditions are often related to the levels of unemployment and career progression of migrant women. “I hope my story can be an inspiration for someone else and that better working conditions can be offered to migrant women”.
At the time of writing Ms. Z had been offered a new temporary job.