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On the 14 Oct 2013 a seminar on the integration of highly skilled migrant women into the labour market was held in Vienna. This seminar aimed at creating ‘space’ for dialogue between various stakeholders in this discussion i.e. academics, practitioners, and highly skilled migrant women in order to identify and discuss some of the main themes around the topic for the purpose of knowledge sharing and gathering. The presentations and discussions drew awareness to the complexities of professional mobility faced by highly skilled migrant women and the challenges of integration into the labour market. Finally, the need for further research as well as the importance of interdisciplinary and collaborative action on this topic was emphasized.

Some of the pertinent issues addressed by the speakers during the deliberation included:

  • initiatives undertaken by the host community are important in fostering the development of professional migrant women;
  • the need to create “spaces” for dialogue and discussion between stakeholders which can facilitate the process of integration and mitigate potential adversities;
  • migrant women are a diverse group, and within this diversity their needs vary;
  • work-life balance and the development of skills as key elements towards creating equal opportunities;
  • gender-sensitive migration policies are important in view of the specific modalities and challenges women may face, such as de-skilling which results in a loss of opportunities for building human capital, innovation and economic growth for the host society, as well as having a personal cost to the individual (i.e. financial and professional);
  • the fundamental rights of free movement in the EU provides a spring board for mobility of EU citizens in the Union; yet individual experiences show that improvements can still be made in terms of harmonizing tax schemes, social insurances and school curriculums in order to facilitate mobility;
  • further research is needed to fill the knowledge gaps, and to better understand the diverse experiences and trajectories of highly skilled migrants in order to identify: diversity among the migrant group, gender differences and outcomes, as well as challenges. Research shows that, economic capital, remains the key factor in the lives of highly skilled migrants;
  • the challenges faced by highly skilled migrant women with regard to their integration into the labour market include: the lack of networks, non-recognition of qualifications, lack of appropriate support systems (i.e. childcare), and insufficient professional language skills;
  • the need to implement services that can mitigate the “brain waste” experienced by highly skilled migrants (i.e., mentoring programs, recognition of diplomas and work experience gained prior to migration, etc);
  • the need to take into consideration the effects of deskilling and underemployment  (i.e., feelings of well-being, anxiety, etc) upon the lives of highly skilled migrant women working in occupations below their levels of education and professional experience, thus identifying the emotional and psychological costs related to their loss of professional/identity/economic roles.

Based on the seminar presentations and discussions four points can be highlighted, this is not exhaustive, but rather an invitation to reflect upon as potential areas of work that needs further addressing: 1. There is a need to know more about the experiences and trajectories of highly skilled women (i.e. research), particularly to understand the interlinks and “missed”-opportunities of talent, mismatch of skills, and economic loss in both the host societies and individual migrants and their families; 2. There is a need to gain a greater understanding of the target group, in order to identify their needs and formulate appropriate services, while keeping in mind that “accompanying/trailing” partners are professionals who will be seeking employment; 3. Employment in jobs commensurable to the professional expertise is to highly skilled migrant women central to the “career well-being”, as well as a key factor in their integration process; and, 4. There is a need for further collaboration and implementation of initiatives across disciplines, services and institutions focusing on the integration of highly skilled migrant women into the labour market.

Thanks goes to the support of Research Platform Migration and Integration, University of Vienna, Municipal Department 57 – City of Vienna Women’s Department, and the Vienna Business Agency, which enabled this event to take place, as well as to all speakers and participants which made this initiative a great gathering. For more information on the seminar (i.e., agenda, presentations, bios and reference materials) please visit the Seminar page above.