Working in India - From a Women’s Perspective
For the last few years, Indian Corporates have been making a lot of hue and cry about how more and more women should be inducted at workplaces and how we should bring more women on sabbaticals back to work. Apart from the introduction of Diversity Hiring Programs with lucrative offers by corporates, there is also an increase in consultants specializing in recruitment for women.
In its National Policy for Women 2016, The Government of India acknowledges that In the coming years, our country is expected to gain significantly from it’s ‘demographic dividend’ as the share of its potential productive workforce will increase in numbers as compared to the aging population of other countries. To what extent the country can seize this dividend and benefit from it will largely depend on how women exercise their rights and entitlements and contribute to the development process.
What amazes me however is the fact that there is still a huge pool of intelligent and capable women in the country who don’t want to come back to work once they are married or have children. As a mother who went on a sabbatical of 4 years herself, It wasn’t an easy decision for me to get back to work either. Additionally, during my sabbatical, I got to interact with many “on a break from career” mothers who wanted to restart their careers but decided against it for various reasons.
Based on my personal experience and discussions with women in similar situations, I have listed down a few solutions that can provide a huge impetus to diversity hiring.
- CREATING PART TIME & FLEXI WORK OPPORTUNITIES
Part-time & Flexi Work positions create a useful re-entry point to the job market, helping women with labor force participation in combination with family responsibilities.
Unlike Other Developed Nations, In India, there is a dearth of intellectually stimulating part-time opportunities. When a woman starts looking for part-time opportunities, the choices are limited to becoming a part-time recruiter or data entry specialist or getting into cold calling. Organizations that are serious about getting women back from sabbaticals into their workforce should start creating more and more part-time opportunities and the difference will be there for all to see.
After doing some research on the options that the Big Ones in India and other countries are providing, I have put down some Flexi work options; an introduction of which on a large scale could provide a huge impetus to not only Back to Work Women Hiring BUT Overall Diversity Hiring.
- Work from Home completely. Coming to office only for Important Meetings / Assessments / Trainings etc.
- Work from Home partially. Working hours can be divided between office and home, in discussion with Department Heads / Team Leaders.
- Project / Contract Based Jobs – Women can be hired for short-term assignments on contract.
- Partial hour Work-day - An employee can work for 50% - 75% of the day for a respective percentage of the Salary.
- 1 - 2 – 3 day work week.
- Work on Weekend program.
- A SUPPORTIVE WORK CULTURE in combination with TRUST & SENSE OF BELONGINGNESS
Yes, you introduced various innovative steps such as Skills Development programs, technical skills training, and access to mentoring and networking for the Returning Women …..However, you probably forgot to add a Training module on “Building an inclusive culture fostering the development of back-to-work women”. In my opinion, such a culture is only possible through “Creating a workforce that is empathetic and supportive towards the Returning Women”.
I know of someone who restarted her career after a 1.5-year maternity break, and then left the organization within 2 months because she was not able to handle the smirks and nasty comments from those who were readily working long hours and weekends. There was a never-ending comparison. While her Reporting Boss & Management had no problem with Flexi timings and leaving on time, their attitude towards handling her grievances in this context was extremely callous.
Keeping in mind the talent crunch most organizations face irrespective of whether them being a startup or a fortune 500, developing a supportive work culture for back-to-work women is imperative. In fact, let's go a step further and say that such inclusive policies should be a part of the organization’s Internal Corporate Social Responsibility Program.
- UNLEARNING & REDEVELOPING THE CONCEPT OF CHILD CARE AND EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION IN INDIA
This is the mother of all solutions and If the problem of daycare was solved in India, it would create a path-breaking movement of On Break Mothers to Workstations.
As the Co-founder of an HR Consulting Startup, I have the flexibility to choose my work hours and work week. Even then, to accomplish my work goals,I felt the need of a professionally run daycare for my 6-year-old for 2-3 days per week (4-5 hours), and thus my hunt began. The problems I faced?? Too many!!
- Not enough daycares in and around my workplace - a residence radius to choose from.
- Some only accept children up to 5 years of age.
- Some do not work on a 2-3 day week module
- Some only accept if you pay Quarterly
- Some do not provide meals
- Some daycares start only around 1:30 pm
- Some didn’t have enough security measures to choose from
- Many didn’t have enough physical-mental activity hours for the kids.
Compromising on a few points in my checklist, I finally zeroed in on one which is a 5-minute walk from my workplace. Not fully satisfied, my son and I are still in the phase of adjusting to the center.
While a few big Corporates do offer the option of daycare, there is a major gap between the demand and supply of such services. I strongly feel that we need massive corporatization of daycares in India. To corroborate the claims of the need to introduce more and more women in the workforce, our Government in collaboration with the Corporates should introduce rules and regulations based on international standards and work towards making daycare an organized industry.
A few leaves that can be taken from American / European books:
- A Strict Licensing System needs to be introduced to ensure minimum health and safety standards. Day Cares needs to be run professionally and not on an ad hoc basis.
- Extensive Training Programs in the area of Child Care should be designed and imparted to those who run daycares or work with them.
- More and More Schools should be encouraged to have “After school” child care services for working parents.
- Each Industrial / Corporate Area should have a number of daycares making it easier for mothers to work peacefully with the knowledge that the child is just a few minutes away.
- The Concept of Co-working spaces attached to daycare facilities should be introduced.
- The Concept of Dash (Drop Off) Service for a short duration (e.g. 2 hours) is almost non-existent in the country. I wonder why??
- Cost of Quality Day Care Services should either be subsidized or controlled.
- RECREATING THE PROCESS OF APPOINTMENT OF TEACHERS
In spite of the fact that a lot of women are interested in teaching Jobs after they get married or have a baby, more than 550,000 seats are lying vacant in government schools across India. In Delhi, around 50% of teaching positions in government schools are vacant. Such figures call for a reality check and a result-oriented action plan.
- A convergence platform needs to be developed to attach well-educated women (maybe Non-B.ED but B.A./ MA. / MBAs etc) to teaching positions. These women can complete their certification courses (through Distance / Internship / WeekendPrograms )while on the job.
- “Less than Meager” Pay-scale and Benefits of Government School Teachers need to certainly be relooked at.
- Even the Pre Primary teachers at Privately Run Early Learning Centers are paid minuscule amounts as Salary vis a vis the importance of their work in shaping the minds of the future. I have seen women lose interest in becoming a pre-primary teacher once they get to know the amount being paid for the job.
Examples like Indra Nooyi, Chanda Kochar, and Shikha Sharma reassert my belief that women with successful careers are not only single women but also women who are mothers. They have not only gotten back to their careers but taken it up a couple of notches higher. But for this circle to increase we need a realignment in the mindset of corporates, the government, and importantly the women.
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