Confidence gets women back to work

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 11 May, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 11 May, 1997, 12:00am

DISCRIMINATION, isolation and a lack of self-confidence are often a mother's lot in Hong Kong, according to the organisation that has helped thousands of women return to work.

The Employees Retraining Board yesterday hosted a gathering for five working women who told of the humiliation and gradual loss of confidence they endured on discovering women aged over 30 were 'too old' and those with qualifications from China or Taiwan were not smart enough.

Board director Sam Chow Tung-shan says courses restore the ability women often lose after full-time motherhood - how to appreciate their own worth.

'Self-confidence is definitely the biggest factor for women who fail to get a job,' he said.

'Often when they lack self-confidence, as soon as they get a setback they give up.

Nicole Wong has two jobs, supports a mother-in-law and sick husband, and has raised three daughters - yet the 40-year-old had a hard time convincing herself she was capable.

'I'd call up about jobs and was constantly being told, 'You're too old', 'You're not qualified'. I felt so terrible that I forgot how to smile,' she said yesterday.

With a telephone call to Caritas, one of the board's 58 training bodies, Ms Wong became one of 170,000 people - about three-quarters of whom are mothers - to attend a choice of 200 courses. Seventy per cent of graduates have found a job in the four years since courses began.

Chiu Lai-ying, 40, began computer training after finding motherhood a barrier to getting even an interview.

'I'm sure they think if you have a family you won't work overtime, that you're more likely to take leave for your children, and they worry about paying a pension.' It took Li Yuyan, a 52-year-old mechanical engineer from Beijing, a year to find work other than as a domestic helper or takeaway food assistant.

'There are a lot more choices for women these days,' she said. 'But in Hong Kong, I'm too old to get many choices.'