28 December 2023

Spotlight On: The Encoreship 2023 • Part 1

Our barrier-breaking Encoreship initiative returned for it's third consecutive year, and boy, didn't we up the ante by welcoming not one, but two exceptional women into the program.

For those not up to speed, The Encoreship is a three-month work placement that provides employment to women facing challenges re-entering the workforce. It's our call to action to support women in regaining their financial independence, building confidence, and upskilling while offering ongoing support to achieve their goals.

In part one of our two part series, we sat sat down with 2023 Encorer, Hayley Sowden.

How did you hear about The Encoreship?
I remember getting an email from DISSH about The Encoreship 2023 applications opening. I was immediately curious and had a look, but straight away thought, “this is too good to be true” and quit the application. Luckily, I got a reminder to finish my application, and that was the little nudge I needed to get me over the line and complete it.

What industry did you previously work in?
Pre-children, I worked in Marketing and Communications. I loved it. Though I quickly realised that you can become irrelevant when you step away.

How many years did you take out of the workforce? What was your primary reason for leaving?
I took close to nine years off to raise my boys. Once the majority were in school, I felt kind of trapped in motherhood, like my skills had disappeared, and unsure how to make space to reskill. It was hard to comprehend getting back in to the workforce.

Did your former company have a paid parental leave policy?
No. Nowhere I’ve worked has had any paid parental leave policy. You just had to rely on Government allowances if that worked, or make sacrifices to live on one income.

What was it like telling your previous employer that you were pregnant?
I remember being scared. I knew they were going to be happy for me, but know they’re also thinking about the implications to my work, and commitment to the job.

Did you ever experience bias as a woman in the workforce – balancing career and family?
I think the bias came when I was looking to re-enter the workforce. There’s a preconceived idea that mums are unreliable – that you know they’ll need to take days off here and there when the kids are sick. But personally, I’ve found that you become so much more efficient as a mum. You get it done. You’re reliable and hard working.

What barriers did you tell yourself existed before joining The Encoreship?
I thought it was too good to be true. I thought, “they say they offer flexibility, but let’s see how it actually goes”. I thought I was going to require more than would be offered. The Encoreship has made me realise that balancing both is realistic and possible.

What does the Encoreship mean to you?
It has changed the trajectory of my working years. I can’t overstate how impactful it’s been – so much more than I could have ever imagined. I look back on the past three months and I feel so proud and grateful for the experience.

What would you say to anyone else thinking about applying for The Encoreship, but have some hesitations?
I remember coming up with a million reasons why it wouldn’t work, or why I wouldn’t be selected. Just put your hat in the ring, because you never know what could come out of it.

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