What’s wrong with remote work?English, Chennai
Sexual harassment at workplace: Why women prefer anonymityEnglish, Chennai
Women managers share inspiring stories of success and supportEnglish, Chennai
2017 Best Companies for Women in India initiative launchedEnglish, Chennai
‘Women from weaker sections hold on to jobs’English, Mumbai
Does going digital mean even fewer women in the workforce?English, Chennai
Cummins gives 30-day paternity leaveEnglish, Mumbai
Awakening the girl childEnglish, Chennai
Startups tap into the small town female workforceEnglish, Kolkata
Can maternity coaching check attrition rateEnglish, Chennai
India Inc curtails post maternity attritionEnglish, Mumbai
What’s wrong with remote work?
What’s wrong with remote work?
- CHITRA NARAYANAN
- SRAVANTHI CHALLPALLI
Four years ago Marissa Meyer decreed Yahoo employees could no longer work from home. This year, it is IBM CMO Michelle Peluso’s turn to tell her 2,600-people-strong marketing department that there will be no more telecommuting. Other adopters of this hardline approach include one of Silicon Valley’s greatest success story – Google.
IBM’s decision is shocking, however, as it was the pioneer of remote work. Big Blue allowed employees to work from home way back in the ’80s, when the technology to telecommute was not so great. In today’s hyper-connected world when everyone is just a voice, text or video call away and the millennial culture is to work from anywhere, it does seem counter-intuitive. Especially as studies have shown that administrative costs for a company do lessen (by as much as 15 per cent), and it has a direct bearing on productivity as well as happiness (no commuting stress, more time for hobbies).
But IBM’s explanation, in Peluso’s words, is: “There is something about a team being more powerful, more impactful, more creative, and frankly hopefully having more fun when they are shoulder to shoulder.”
This raises a few questions.
Is innovation and creativity really linked to close collaboration?
“Yes and no,” says Saundarya Rajesh, founder & President of Avatar Group, which runs a talent strategy consulting firm as well as a flexible working platform for women.
“Yes, because a product requires the full complement of thought capital from diverse individuals to pass through the various stages that take it to market,” she explains. “And no, because in many cases, innovation is largely an individual process – at this stage, collaboration might actually be counter-productive,” says Rajesh.
She believes that the initial processes do not really warrant close collaboration. “However, closer to the go-to-market stage an innovation has to be weathered to meet customer expectations which requires the team work that IBM speaks of,” she says.
What does a creative industry such as advertising think about this? Manish Bhatt, Founder-Director of Scarecrow Communications, says, “It’s true that in today’s world you can use Skype, chat, but when a lot of people are involved in the creative process, brainstorming together is required.”
Having said that, Bhatt describes how he has worked on projects remotely. “When I directed my film in New York, I got the music and complete voiceover from India. Everything was recorded there and we collaborated through chat. In future, if it is a simple film, I have decided I will not even travel to the location – simply get it shot,” he says. And yet, he insists, for agency work, remote working is not a good idea.
Even Dhanabalan RK, Vice President – Human Resources of Maveric Systems, which has a need-based and fairly lenient work from home (WFH) policy, says he sees merit in the IBM argument. “In businesses where employees work in teams, sharing a location builds camaraderie, innovation, and cooperation, which are essential to individual and team success,” he says.
So is remote work now going to be under threat?
It all depends on what the policy is for. The three biggest reasons for companies to introduce WFH are to do with work-life integration, attracting key talent, and driving cost efficiencies. Says Rajesh, “Over 66 per cent of remote workers in IT/ITES companies (according to a 2008 TCS study) are women, not because they become more productive, but because their work-life situation requires it and a company allows it, with the express condition that once the “critical stage” of the employee work-life passes, he or she can come back to work at the office.
Hybrid versions of the policy are coming up whereby the employee can work from home only a certain number of days – an approach followed by Maveric.
At Genesys, a customer experience technology firm, managers can fix a suitable policy for their teammates. Michael Katten, Senior Director, Technical Publications and Interim Site Lead – Chennai, Genesys, says that for managers whose employees have meetings with corporateheadquarters late at night, or have independent contributor work, WFH is a valued option.
Others such as Sapient believe constant monitoring is the answer. “We do a periodic dipstick of how the person is doing, the viability of the arrangement and the connection to the organisation,” says Khushnooma Mohan, Senior Manager, People Strategy, Sapient India.
As she sums up, “The value of work from home used judiciously with the right mechanisms, organisational guidelines, manager support, HR assistance and out-of-the box thinking is an unbeatable option.”
Sexual harassment at workplace: Why women prefer anonymity
Sexual harassment at workplace: Why women prefer anonymity
As soon as a woman files a sexual harassment complaint, both her current and future job prospects are affected..
Three years ago, a 36-year old woman accused her superior at a newspaper of sexual misconduct. He would not only allegedly make sexually coloured remarks, but also insist that she accompany him to his hotel room during field work. She was sacked and hasn’t found a job since.
Women victims of sexual harassment often choose to remain anonymous because their job prospects take a hit once they formally lodge a complaint. While such cases are treated with utmost sensitivity in companies, biases do creep in at the time of changing jobs.
Saundarya Rajesh, Founder, President at AVTAR Group, which specialises in diversity at the workplace, said: “There is a lot of headache around women filing a case, be it going to the internal complaints committee [ICC], having to appear before it and being the subject of further biases in the current organisation.”
Often, the current employer does not wish to get involved especially if the complaint was not properly resolved or if there was excessive publicity about a particular case. Rajesh said that biases do enter the picture when a woman has filed a complaint in the previous company. She added, however, that the increase in sensitisation has resulted in some changes.
The top listed companies on the Indian stock exchanges are much more careful and have zero tolerance towards sexual harassment at the workplace. Smaller companies, during the background verification process, also look at whether the particular candidate had lodged any sexual harassment complaint in the previous company.
“Though they would not explicitly state that they will not hire such candidates, the unsaid rule in several companies in India is to exclude such candidates for many senior posts,” said the chief executive of a global background verification company.
According to Indian laws, sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour such as physical contact and advances, request for sexual favours, showing pornography or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
As per the guidelines of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, any organisation/branch of a company having at least 10 employees at a particular location is required to have an Internal Complaints Committee in place to look into grievances related to sexual harassment. Companies are even required to report them in their annual report and details related to closure of the case.
Human resource experts feel that victims should steer clear of companies which are not sensitive enough. Rituparna Chakraborty, Executive Vice President of TeamLease Services, explained that it is the perpetrator of crime and not the victim who should be subject to discrimination for any future employment.
“If a false case has been filed, then of course there will be anti-selection. However, if the incident was genuine, there is no reason why she should be subject to a bias,” she said.
HR consultants also recall cases where the ICC has not given out a clear cut decision for or against the accused. Such victims will have to wait till a full closure is received before they apply for another job.
In one case, a woman at an Indian conglomerate had complained about her boss making sexually coloured remarks. However, the case has not yet achieved closure and the complainant has moved abroad to seek better job prospects.
If the company finds the woman to be co-perpetrator in a case, be it flirting with the male perpetrator or giving inappropriate signals to his advances, she may also be charged. Hiring experts said that this makes any chance of employment bleak for the woman though she may not have intentionally been involved.“Once a formal complaint is filed, it does not take time to spread to other companies," said a headhunter in Delhi. "It is indeed a challenge both for the concerned woman and hiring consultants to help them find a job. Companies are unwilling to get involved in controversies by hiring someone who has filed a case or has accused someone of improper behaviour.”
Women managers share inspiring stories of success and support
Women managers share inspiring stories of success and support
- AAKANKSHA SRINIVASAN
- ANANYA REVANNA
The Madras Management Association last week organised its annual Women Managers’ Convention on the theme ‘The Millennial Woman’. Women from all walks of life came together to exchange notes and share stories — of success, failure, and supporting other women at the workplace and elsewhere.
The first session, ‘Leaning (Back) In’, was chaired by Saundarya Rajesh, founder-President of AVTAR Group, which works to help women get back into the workforce. The panellists were Hemalatha Annamalai, founder and CEO, Ampere Vehicles; and Toolika Rani, Squadron Leader (retired), Indian Air Force, whose passion for mountaineering pushed her to scale Mount Everest.
Rajesh spoke about how it was important for women to overcome the feeling of being a statistic and get back into the workforce.
Relating how she finds the time to pursue her passion as well as excel at work, Toolika Rani said she trains before and after work everyday. “While training, I set short goals and regard them as base camps. So when I attempted to scale a peak, not just Everest, in my mind, I have already scaled the peak several times. It’s all in the mind. If you want to do something, it will automatically become a priority for you.”
The session ‘From Woman to Woman’ was chaired by Deborah Thiagarajan, Director, Dakshinachitra museum, and Chairman, Madras Craft Foundation. The panellists were Deepti Bopaiah, Executive Director, GoSports Foundation; Manasi Sapre, Senior Director - Head of Programming and Acquisitions India, Vuclip; and Shreya Gadepalli, South Asia Director, Institute of Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP).
All the panellists agreed that women have to support other women and that behind every successful woman, there is another who dared to dream big and be different. Sapre said: “Workplace culture needs to change to make it more — for the lack of a better term — woman-friendly. And this can be achieved only when women support one another.”
In the session titled ‘A Balancing Act’, artist, designer and educator Aishwarya Manivannan spoke about the importance of nurturing creativity in students. Creativity is not restricted to arts students; it is necessary for every field, she said.
About the education system in India, she said: “A teacher asks students to draw an apple and when they don’t draw it a certain way, they are told they are wrong. The education system doesn’t encourage children to think differently; they are expected to learn what textbooks say.”
To further prove her point, she showed the audience two drawings.
The exercise was to create something out of a given shape (a triangle, in this case) in 10 seconds. The first picture was by a five-year-old; as expected, he drew a house from the triangle. The second picture was also that of a house, but it was by a 76-year-old.
“On one hand, we can look at it as our ability to retain the child in us. On the other, it shows that we haven’t grown in over 70 years, which is scary.”
This is where the need for balance comes in: most people predominantly use one side of their brain. Manivannan said we need to find a balance between the two halves, so there is a creative outflow in every aspect of our lives.
2017 Best Companies for Women in India initiative launched
2017 Best Companies for Women in India initiative launched; Calls for participation from companies in India Inc
Chennai, 9th March, 2017: 100 Best Companies for Women in India 2017, a pioneering initiative to benchmark India Inc’s women inclusive practices, is inviting nominations for its second edition. The program recognizes and rewards best practices of companies across industry segments.
This initiative is spearheaded by India’s leading diversity & inclusion expert - AVTAR Group in association with US Based Working Mother Media. The first edition of Best Companies of Women in India (BCWI)in 2016 witnessed an overwhelming participation of over 300 companies from industry segments like IT, Manufacturing, BFSI, Healthcare, Education and many more.
The program aims to study policies of companies based on several parameters like Women’s Recruitment, Parental leave, Safety & Security, Flexible Work and more. The Top 10 Companies from 2016 are: Accenture, Cummins, Deloitte, EY, HUL, IBM, ICICI Bank, Intel, Mindtree, Morgan Stanley, People Combine (Due to a tie for one of the positions, there were 11 companies in the Top 10).
The 2017 BCWI study lays a platform to showcase the various initiatives undertaken by companies to improve the retention rate of women at workplace and also offer a conducive ecosystem. Participating companies will also be able to make peer-to-peer comparisons on best practices, and judge for themselves the impact of their choices. Companies with already-established gender parity goals will benefit from cross industry data and some may come out as equality champions, inspiring others and becoming the most desirable workplaces for talented & highly skilled women.
Commenting on the launch of BCWI 2017, Diversity & inclusion champion, Dr. Saundarya Rajesh, Founder – President, AVTAR Group, said “Women’s workforce participation is a matter of national interest and concern, given the economic implications of advancing women in India. Discerning organizations seek data-backed inspiration to drive the agenda forward in moving towards a 50-50 gender balance. This is what the Best Companies initiative has provided – it is India’s largest gender analytics exercise.
It has become that benchmark by which organizations keen on gender inclusion wherever they are in their Diversity journey, measure their policies and programs. This year, apart from identifying the Best 100 and Top 10 companies which have pushed the bar on women’s advancement, the BCWI brings a new aspect – the Male Ally Legacy award, which celebrates an iconic male leader who has made the difference to thousands of women’s careers!”
Companies from across industries can participate in the project. The last date for filing the application is June 30th, 2017. Interested companies, with a minimum of 500 employees (including both men and women) in India, can visit the official website of BCWI at http://www.avtariwin.com/best-companies to register. Companies can also contact +91 73581 50111 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org for further details about BCWI.
‘Women from weaker sections hold on to jobs’
‘Women from weaker sections hold on to jobs’
Mumbai: Women's attrition remains a big challenge for companies. Tapping into the vast potential of women from underprivileged sections of society could provide the requisite solution through simple methods of creating career intentional initiatives. Corporate exposure, role models and mentors have emerged as a key vector of career intentionality creators that upgrade women from underprivileged backgrounds, in their careers, according to Avtar Group's career intentionality report, shared exclusively with TOI.
These, along with career intentionality sustainers (family support, scholarship, motivation net, additional coaching and infrastructural support) and career intentionality propellers (such as intrinsic skills like determination, focus, hard-work and ambition), form a career development model that has helped women in their socio-economic development (see graph).
The study was conducted between September 2016 and January 2017 and covers 1,488 subjects, who had spent more than eight years working for the same organisation at an early career stage. Of these, 34% — or 496 women — came from underprivileged backgrounds and had studied in corporation/government schools. All of these 496 women, spread across India, had managed to follow a path that was divergent from that followed by the majority of women in socio-economically challenged backgrounds. The women, currently employed in white collar jobs, had broken out of poverty and were instrumental in creating a better life for themselves by building a career development model framework that allowed them to persist against all odds and rise to a better socio-economic status.
Saundarya Rajesh, founder-president, Avtar Group, said, "This study, which was constructed upon identifying a trend of low attrition associated with women employees from humble backgrounds, revealed that when a girl from an underprivileged family obtains a role model or a mentor who intervenes at critical junctures in her life, she becomes 'career-intentional' and, in eight out of 10 cases, is able to complete tertiary education that leads her to a higher-paying job, as compared to what she would have earned as a domestic servant. This presents a unique opportunity for corporate India to build a new cadre of gender-diverse talent, which has the potential to buck the trend of high women's attrition."
Does going digital mean even fewer women in the workforce?
Does going digital mean even fewer women in the workforce?
International Women’s Day is here and for those of us who work for gender diversity, it is among the busiest of seasons. Juggling time on my calendar to attend the ‘office-warming’ of a friend’s 500-seater IT company, I had a very gratifying vision as I looked at the lines of empty workstations and cubicles. An image of neat rows of women occupying those seats! Women closing deals, stylish women writing code, empowered women speaking confidently on hi-tech communication equipment, et al. Stuff that truly dreams are made of.
Unable to hold my excitement, I asked the CEO, a young tech wizard, “So, how many women do you think you will hire? About 40 per cent? 50 per cent?” My mood was upbeat.
“Well, honestly, if I were to go by what I saw during my last campus hiring exercise not more than about a dozen,” he replied. “A dozen! Out of 500 hires?!” I was incredulous. “Yes,” he replied calmly. “I don’t think women are cut out to be digital citizens.” And that shocking statement led me to find out for myself what exactly is in store for women in the digital era.
Recent studies indicate that there is a gender gap in ‘digital fluency’. What does this term mean? Digital fluency is the extent to which people embrace digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective. It impacts how men and women use digital technologies for education, information and career advancement.
Women, the studies note, are digitally less fluent than men. A recent research by Accenture reveals that Indian women score the lowest in digital fluency. Of the 31 countries covered in the research, India has a gaping gender divide in digital attainment. However, the same gap is an opportunity too, since 46 per cent of all enrolled undergraduate students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) in India as of 2014 are women. If digital fluency can be instilled in young female engineers and graduates, then the Indian IT industry — which today has a 30 per cent representation of women — can increase in numbers to bridge the workforce participation rates.
Let us consider this: while digital fluency has the felicity to impact women’s workforce participation, are women ready to become digital citizens? Again, there is no paucity of research on this. Male brains may be optimised for motor skills but studies say female brains are optimised for combining analytical and intuitive thinking, with greater connections between the left and the right parts of the brain. While gender stereotypes might refute this by asserting that women are not comfortable in STEM sciences, research actually states the opposite — that it is more nurture than nature which causes women not to become as technologically confident as men. If analytical thinking is what women’s brains are optimised for, there is a lot women can do in the day and age of Big Data and analytics. The little secret is that, they don’t know it!
Women and neurosexism
In an interview to Forbes, Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, once said there is an over-emphasis on the influence of gender on STEM. This is validated by words of Lise Eliot of the Chicago Medical School, who believes that while there are basic behavioural differences between the sexes, this difference increases with age due to our gendered culture. She states, “Children don’t inherit intellectual differences. They learn them.” As a skill-building initiative working in the space of education for underprivileged children, we have seen heavy stereotypes parents often bear, that boys have poor chances of acquiring good verbal skills or that girls have little opportunity of developing mathematical prowess. Such biases place serious and unjustified obstacles in the path of children’s education. If we were to push this “neurosexism” out of the way, girls stand as much a chance of excelling in STEM as do boys. Exposure to tech platforms in formative years helps ensure that a ‘tech inclination’ is built early on, in girls. Girls are often able to optimally look at problem solving, as they are empathetic in their approach. But what actually impacts their participation in STEM? It appears to be the usual suspects of media which inculcates stereotypes, our education system which creates biases and subsequently, the work environment which engenders the bias to a greater extent. So, what should women do in order to become truly skilled digital citizens?
Stay digitally adaptable
Technology is evolving, revolutionising the world at an unprecedented pace. Newer versions of apps appear every other day, software platforms that were once the rage become archaic in a few years. Against this backdrop, to become truly skilled digital citizens, women should adapt, stay digitally relevant. Mentors, peers or online courses are all potential channels for staying aware of digital evolutions.
The AI wave isn’t science fiction any longer. There are machines which have proved to be smart doctors, have won games of chess and jeopardy! It is definitely going to be another era of survival of the fittest and how can women ensure they are the fittest? By nurturing their creativity, and adding these elements to AI platforms that can ensure creative intelligent solutions.
It is proven that having more women on board brings more innovation to business houses. If that is the case, in a world set to be overtaken by automation, it is important that women leverage their cognitive diversity. To give an example, if a woman is in a client-facing role, she can ensure empathetic use of technology (factoring clients’ approach to the tech platform) to build better client relationships.
But most important of all, to all those young women who are already in STEM, here’s what I would say: STEM careers are not easy. But then, no career worth having is. Your challenges are deeper since this is a VUCA world sitting on a burning platform. So, you won’t always know or see the right path in solving a problem or taking a decision in your career path. You might have to step back, realign, make adjustments and maybe even choose a career a little away from the one you got into. But it’s okay. What is important is for you to be intentional. If you’re intentional, you will be successful.
(The author is Founder-President, AVTAR Group)
Cummins gives 30-day paternity leave
Cummins gives 30-day paternity leave
Namrata Singh| TNN | Feb 23, 2017, 04.00 AM IST
Mumbai: When it comes to parental leave, it appears companies in India are competing to offer the best leave possible. Over the last few years, companies have upped the game on paternity leave — with some offering a week, to a few progressive companies moving to a fortnight. Cummins India has now set a new benchmark of sorts. It has become the first among manufacturing companies to come up with a path-breaking 30 days of paternity leave for its employees, which can be availed of during the first six months of becoming a father.
Vikas Thapa, VP (HR), Cummins Group in India, told TOI, "We want to create a culture of inclusion and promote gender parity. In line with this, we have made our parental leave gender-neutral, focusing on both primary and secondary care givers. The primary care giver can now avail six-month maternity leave, while the secondary care giver can take the newly introduced 30-day paternity leave. We believe much like mothers, fathers too need to bond with the newborns."
It is usually assumed that the woman/mother is the primary caregiver since she gives birth to the child. But there is a growing trend of men partaking in childcare responsibilities. A study by Avtar Group and Working Mother Media reveals that 86% of companies introduced paternity policies at workplace as an aid for young working mothers. Most progressive companies offer 7-15 days paternity leave. Cummins could be setting a new precedent and its offer would most likely be matched at least by new-age companies, if not the brick-and-mortar kinds. PayPal recently doubled its paternity leave from 5 to 10 days. Asian Paints, too, offers paternity leave for 10 days. Microsoft India and GSK Consumer Healthcare are among those that offer a two-week paternity leave.
According to a Mercer global parental leave report, 38% of companies globally provide paid paternity leave above the statutory minimum and several countries mandate a parental leave programme for employees. In Asia-Pacific, 41% of the companies provide paid paternity leave above the statutory minimum to their employees with India being among the top-10 countries that have the highest percentage of companies providing paternity and adoption leaves above the statutory requirement in the world.
Awakening the girl child
Awakening the girl child
THE ASIAN AGE. | MERIN JAMES
Dr Saundarya Rajesh is an award-winning social entrepreneur from Chennai.
One of the earliest voices to speak on gender diversity and inclusion of women in work spaces from India,
Dr Saundarya Rajesh is an award-winning social entrepreneur from Chennai. Best known for pioneering work in creating second careers for women, she was recently named to the UN’s list of ‘25 Women Transforming India’ in 2016.
Founder-President of the Avtar Group, Saundarya was herself a second-career woman — who earlier pursued a corporate career in banking, only to discover that the workplace had to undergo several transformations. Having started India’s first career service for women in 2005, she says, “I have 40,000 women like me on the Avtar I-WIN network (Avtar India women professionals interface network),in which 8,000 of whom have re-entered the workforce. Working with women and helping them is my ultimate passion.”
Saundarya passionately believes that women are the backbone of any economy and if a country focusses on increasing its women’s labour force participation, then it would reach its true potential. Recently, her group’s CSR arm Avtar Human Capital Trust kickstarted the ‘Project Puthri’ campaign on National Girl Child Day (January 24). The objective of this project is to create career intentionality among corporation school girls and enable them to rise out of poverty, early marriages, sexual abuse, and domestic violence and propel them to become a new cadre of talent for corporate India.
“Project Puthri is India’s first ever career intentionality training initiative addressed at 10,000 girl children across Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. The girl children are from corporation, government and government-aided private schools. Now, almost 100 schools are a part of the project. We launched the initiative one month back and are planning to kick in the programmes by June 2017,” Saundarya shares.
Elaborating on the project, the entrepreneur says, “We want the girl students from class eight to class 12, to focus on their careers. Career intentionality is not like a course or a vocation; instead we will teach them the ability to demonstrate resilience, the ability to show passion, to work in a team, to focus on their careers and get ahead. We also provide them three things — mentor, role model and corporate exposure through career coaches. Through this five-year programme, we become a part of their life and influence them.”
Saundarya believes that this training will prevent drop-outs, and build meaningful relationships. “It’s a sad state that only one out of every 100 girls in the state finishes class 12. We want to change the statistics. We make sure that there is a quantum jump in the number of children who finish plus two. We expect Project Puthri to have a social awakening,” adds the entrepreneur.
Saundarya wants to ensure that these girl children get into tertiary education and make certain they pursue white-collar jobs upon graduation.
A leading keynote speaker at national and international forums in the areas of entrepreneurship and human capital management, her vision is to reach out to the 1.8 million Indian women, who wish to make a career come back.
Startups tap into the small town female workforce
Startups tap into the small town female workforce
Sovon Manna| Feb 12, 2017, 02.00 AM IST
KOLKATA: Anumita Mukherjee, a Durgapur-based media professional, was looking for freelance opportunities after a year-long break. But it wasn't easy to find a job with a good salary and flexible hours through the usual channels. Finally, a friend pointed her to a website that helps women like her find jobs.
From Chandigarh and Kochi to Ahmedabad and Durgapur, women in smaller towns are going online to find work, especially if they've taken a break. Startups such as Sheroes, HerSecondInnings, JobsForHer, ElasticJobs and Avtar I-Win are helping women in small towns find jobs with flexible hours and salaries commensurate with their skills and qualifications.
A lot of the jobs on offer, such as technical writing, coding and testing, and design, allow remote working, so a woman in Siliguri can work for a company in Mumbai quite easily. Companies too are open to such arrangements as it solves their resource crunch problem and reduces establishment cost.
"Women are often forced to give up their careers due to various obligations and commitments," says Mukherjee. "Women like me, who live in non-metros, have very few options. But we want to earn a living and feel a sense of fulfilment just as much as anyone else," she says.
That's the kind of sentiment that pushed Neha Bagaria to start her company JobsForHer in Bengaluru in 2015. The Wharton graduate had taken a break to raise her two children, and realized that a lot of mothers like her wanted to get back to work but didn't know how. "We connect women on a career break with job opportunities ranging from full-time, part-time, work-from-home to freelance," says Bagaria. The startup charges companies for promoting jobs on its website.
Women in tier 2 and 3 cities are also looking online for better opportunities and pay. Priti Sharma, a designer based in Ranikhet in Uttarakhand, found that most companies offered her less pay than their counterparts in metros. She signed up with a startup and got a job that paid according to her qualifications.
According to industry estimates, there are over 300 million women looking to enter workforce across the country. Technology is the equalizer and has played a vital role in enabling women in small towns to gain an equal footing in the Indian workforce. "Now any educated and qualified woman, who was previously constrained by geography, has the ability to become gainfully employed while working from home," says Bagaria.
Working from home is catching on in tier 2 and 3 cities, and the demand for jobs is higher in northern, western and southern India. Women — especially between 24 and 40 years — are able to earn Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4 lakh per annum working from home. For highly skilled software jobs, the income is higher. "They can earn Rs10,000 to Rs1,00,000 per assignment or per month, depending on their capability," says Manjula Dharmalingam, director, HerSecondInnings, a job portal for women, based in Bengaluru.
Sheroes founder and CEO Sairee Chahal says, "At our helpline, most queries revolve around work from home options. In small towns, where people have fewer career options, working from home provides them with possibilities that help them stay connected with the corporate world or start something new." Sheroes gets applications from cities ranging from Port Blair in the Andamans to Ludhiana in Punjab.
"Only jobs those that pass our screening are allowed on Elasticjobs. We filter out all junk and present our users good, quality jobs," says Abhishek Bagaria, CEO, ElasticJobs, based in Kolkata. "We also hold counselling sessions to understand skills, interest areas and constraints of the candidates. Based on this, we suggest job options or training, if needed," he says.
On the face of it, flexi-work may not seem to be long-term option, but many women have found it to be a stable and sustainable source of income. "Flexi-work opens the door for women to explore multiple avenues to earn money as well as to realise their passion and explore their career journey," Dharmalingam says.
Can maternity coaching check attrition rate
Can ‘maternity coaching’ check attrition rate?
Counselling mothers who return to work is not new, but in recent times it has attained the status of a structured programme
In a span of five years, Divya quit her job twice. The first time she did so, it was six months after she had returned to work from her first maternity break. After a year’s break, she got a job as part of a second career programme offered by a BPO. Two years into her new job, she resigned again.
The reason: she had her second baby.
Eight months on, a role has emerged that would suit Divya to a ‘T’, but she is not just hesitant, but also diffident.
She feels she no longer belongs in the workplace. And this is a college topper, interview-cracker and exceptional performer at work that we are talking about.
Whose loss is this?
When women like Divya decide that the workplace is no longer sustainable for them, who bears the brunt of this damage?
Is it the system which invested in Divya’s education as a girl child? Is it the corporate that trained her, invested in her and expected her to rise to position of leadership?
Or is it Divya herself who, after getting off to two good starts, not just one, is fearing the workplace again?
The leaky pipeline cannot be ignored.
Having a child, leave alone two, one encounters the ‘leaky pipeline’, which is the bane of organisations.
The most exotic policies around women’s workforce participation seem to crumble like dust in the face of the harsh reality of attrition caused by maternity. Even for the most logical woman, going through maternity is a gigantic emotional roller-coaster which throws her best-laid plans off-balance. Over 48% of working women under the age of 30 take a break in career citing maternity as the top reason. And, companies see a surging spike in attrition of women who return from maternity. The Maternity Benefit Amendment Bill 2016 (still waiting to become an Act pending clearance from Lok Sabha) stipulates a six months benefit with the option of flexible working. However, the leave provision alone does not seem to play a major role in curbing attrition.
Sarah, 32, working with a leading IT services firm, has been considering quitting her job for the past three months, ever since she returned from her first maternity break. Her organisation, a generous one, gave her six months maternity leave even before the Bill has been passed.
Sarah identified a crèche (referred by her employer) to which her child goes and she also gets the option of working flexibly for two days in a week. However, her key challenges do not lie in these hard options — on the contrary, it is the softer aspects of her transition that seem to hasten her decision of dropping off the workplace.
The demands on a woman professional who goes on a maternity break are high. Sarah describes her state of mind as “being a jump from professional to mother and then back to a professional again.
When you are neither 100% mom nor 100% professional and seek to be a combination of the two, you seem to fail miserably at both.”Plagued by guilt and unable to prioritise, Sarah feels that quitting her job is the only sane alternative. The draining emotional upheaval that she goes through while stepping inside the doors of her workplace are not very helpful to her performance.
The different dynamics that influence a women’s thinking post-maternity have been discussed aptly by Katherine Ellison in her book The Mommy Brain. While Ellison argues that a woman actually ends up building far more robust business skills through changed neurological patterns post-maternity, the crucial clincher is that the woman requires self-awareness and support to actually emerge stronger.
Maternity coaching or counselling emerged as a strong discipline in corporate counselling since the early 2000s. As part of psychotherapy, maternity coaching did not obtain the same level of awareness or utilisation as did its more famous counterparts. In a country like India where the joint family system had an influence on the mother, maternity counselling was present by default. It was almost like a rite of passage handed down from generation to generation. Yet, in these frenetic times, with nuclear families being the norm, and with the young mother having to deal with the pressures and stresses of double-horse riding at home and work, greater attention to maternity counselling or coaching has been extremely beneficial.
Twenty-six out of “the Working Mother & AVTAR 100 Best Companies for Women in India” offer maternity coaching.
There is a significant difference of 8 % in women’s attrition in companies with maternity coaching and without. As much as the quantifiable objectives, companies which use maternity coaching also express the following positives:
a) Improved engagement and productivity among returning women.
b) Smoother re-integration of women post maternity leave.
c) Better management of maternity breaks of employees by managers/teams.
For an organisation that is a serious investor in gender inclusion and believes in the power of women’s workforce participation, the following would be highly beneficial:
1. A customised policy towards maternity leave that allows the manager of the pregnant woman to take enabling decisions from a suite of offerings. A leading FMCG organisation recognises that not all women want to go on a really long maternity leave. As such, there is a wide spectrum within which the woman and her manager make a choice. Not all maternity support systems need to be built on long periods of leave
2. Gender Intelligence training for managers that can facilitate better understanding and empathy. Diversity training (aka sensitisation training) is a must-have across all levels of the organisation. The adage that too much is never enough can be aptly applied to gender intelligence training especially in the context of returning mothers.
In 2011, Goldman Sachs began the practice of training managers to demonstrate empathy and sensitivity to returning women and it had a great impact on the performance of the women. Aditya Birla Group, Morgan Stanley and Shell are big proponents of the concept of gender training, leading to greater empathy creation in the minds of managers.
3. An enabling attitude that recognises and celebrates the woman’s personal milestone while also gently nudging her to keep her skills updated and retain her professional edge.
In the early 2000s, HCL recognised that women on maternity required to be kept updated on the happenings at office and the opportunities that were emerging. A community was built that helped the women-on-maternity-leave to stay connected
4. Support structures that result in confidence building when the mother makes her return after maternity leave.
One of the strongest enablers for a woman professional, mother or not, is a supportive peer group. Organisations such as HUL, Cisco, Mahindra Group and Integra have consistently invested in building these peer groups that provide confidence and psychological stamina to the young returning mother
5. On-the-ground counselling by way of imparting preparedness training to the young mother on how she will cope with the demands of motherhood and her career.
Companies like IBM, Fidelity, Deloitte and Mindtree have acknowledged the importance of this very critical support and provided the same.
6. A coaching programme to support returnees prior to, during and after maternity leave.
Solutions to questions such as how a woman on maternity leave can stay connected, how to ensure that hard-won relationships at work do not suffer, how to utilise communication as a tool during an out-of-sight/out-of-mind scenario, being confident even as a fresh returnee, manage time and priorities well to hit the ground running and also the important art of setting boundaries — are an absolute must for the young returning mother.
(Saundarya Rajesh is founder-president, AVTAR Group)
India Inc curtails post maternity attrition
India Inc curtails post-maternity attrition
MUMBAI: Several organisations have over the last few years introduced new policies to curtail attrition among women employees post maternity . Between 2003 and 2010, according to Avtar, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm, over 48% of employed women under 30 years of age dropped out of the workforce due to maternity and childcare. It's a challenge organisations are facing headon. From flexi-work to phaseback programmes, no stone has been left unturned. The hard work is finally paying off.Organisations are witnessing agradual reduction in attrition levels among women employees post maternity.
Over the last three years, Maersk Group India has seen a steady decline in attrition among women employees post maternity from 30-33% in 20132014 and 24-26% in 2015 to 7% so far in 2016. IBM India, on the other hand, has reduced attrition among women employees by 10% in the last two years, while at Cummins, a return-to work programme called `Reboot' launched in May 2016 has already seen a positive outcome.
Maersk had in April this year introduced improved maternity benefits of a minimum 18 weeks of maternity leave on full pay and a phased return-to-work programme with reduced hours by 20% on full pay for up to six months to all employees who return from maternity leave. Year on year, 3-5% of its women workforce proceed on maternity leave. Maersk realised when women return to their careers, they may sense reduced confidence levels. Many lose leadership roles to their peers who remained in the workforce.
It was critical for Maersk, which has a women-to-men workforce ratio of 30:70, to introduce a `return-to-work' initiative and transition employees on a career break to full-time careers. Here, women leaders are provided with real-time challenging business project opportunities, deployed through a holistic orientation and developmental programme focusing on specific skills and capabilities to settle in their roles at the earliest and assigned a mentor.
Pratap G, senior director, HR, Maersk Global Services Centre, said, "So far, we have onboarded eight women employees as a part of the programme."
Under Cummins' `Reboot', candidates go through an induction and general global onboarding that brings them up to speed with their peers. "In a short span of six months (from launch of Reboot), it has enabled 22 candidates to resume their careers," said Vikas Thapa, VP (HR), Cummins Group in India.
At IBM, a flexible work environment is created to help employees get work done in or der to achieve business objectives and meet personal needs.Dilpreet Singh, VP (HR) & HR head, IBM India & South Asia, said, "Getting women back to work post child birth is an important metric for us. Around 70% of women who go out on maternity leave come back and stay with IBM."
Saundarya Rajesh, founder (president), Avtar Career Creators & Flexi Careers India, said, "In 2009, Standard Chartered Bank was among the first companies to offer six months maternity leave. Soon, a bunch of companies started offering this. But even after offering the best-in-class six months, attrition rate of women who went on maternity leave was high, at 35-40%. Most returning mothers were plagued with guilt and in spite of having very understanding managers, they decided to drop off."
In a study around career enablers for women, Avtar found that not only did women require a 'phase-back' programme, they needed assistance in the form of supportive peer groups as also counselling.