The Indian Inc seems oblivious to the issues that plague us working women. They don’t even seem bothered to retain us. We are trained, experienced women who have been in the workforce for quite some time but our uterus and giving birth somehow makes us dispensable. All that we get instead is a promise of a better work environment, maybe a policy or two in writing but nothing substantial on the ground level. Nothing that translates the writing into action. Slowly and steadily they smother us, push us out of the workforce while telling the world how much they want gender parity at the workplace, in the workforce. It is perhaps high time these companies put on some thinking hats to retain us, retain women post-motherhood and not ignore this multitasking female army which is more capable than it is given credit for.
We need policies which are independent of managerial interpretation and choice, policies which are translated from pdfs to the real world environment. #WorkingMoms Click To Tweet
Some statistics for you
As per the report from McKinsey Global Institute titled the power of parity : Advancing Women’s Equality In India, our Gender Parity SScore(GPS) is just 0.48 with Gender Parity set at 1. This is far lower than of Europe or America and also far below par for a country at our level of economic development.
This report also states that the below potential contribution of women to India’s GDP today contrasts with their higher share of unpaid care work such as cooking, cleaning, and taking care of children and older members of the family. It goes on to add that in India, women perform 9.8 times the amount of unpaid care work than men. Furthermore, as per the report, two of the focus areas to bring more and more women into the workforce in India would be improving infrastructure and services to address the high burden of routine domestic work, childcare, and eldercare and stepping up gender diversity policies and practices in private-sector organizations.
It is but a known fact that knowingly or unknowingly Indian Inc forces women to quit their jobs post-motherhood. I have written on that too. This report also reiterates the fact. As per MGI, the lack of specific company measures to recruit, retain, promote and develop women is the most important barrier to increasing gender diversity within the top management of organizations, and the double burden for women in balancing work and domestic responsibilities is the next highest hindrance.
So, what can the Indian Inc do?
It’s no rocket science really. In fact, with just a few changes they can retain the female workforce. They need to just have the will. Once they have that, this needs to be translated into reality.
Women don’t need policies the implementation of which depends on managers who have no clue as to how hard balancing a career and motherhood can be. We need policies which are independent of managerial interpretation and choice, policies which are translated from pdfs to the real world environment.
We do not need lip service anymore for we have had enough of that. And in keeping with that, here are a few things which I think companies can do, should do, to retain women post-motherhood. It is, after all, beneficial to them and also helps in attaining more gender parity at work and overall in the society.
- Flexible working hours. There are Indian IT companies which mandate working 9.15 hours monthly or yearly. This translates into Managers willing employees to be present at the office premises for the said number of hours, sometimes even daily, with or without work. This makes no sense because work being done should be the priority and not how many hours you clock. Women, who need to not only manage office but homes as well, suffer the most due to this. This is one of the primary factors for women leaving such companies, for women being dissatisfied and stressed working for such companies. Thus those who find other options move on and those who don’t drop out.
- Work from Home option. I don’t understand why is it so hard for Indian IT companies to let employees work from home. It would be so helpful for working mothers, save company resources and even ensure women don’t take leaves every time their children fall sick. An IT company especially not being able to provide work from option seems a bit ridiculous to me. Some serious thinking needs to be done on this on their part.
- If you are really serious about gender parity, open a crèche at the premises. Children won’t steal state secrets and when they are at the same campus, women would be able to even conform to those attendance policies even though archaic.
- Sensitise Managers and HRs. Women should not be told that they can either take care of their children or work. The companies need to make sure this is done if they are serious about bridging the gap. After all, there is only so much apathy we can endure after working nonstop, not only at work but at our homes as well. And wouldn’t these companies rather retain us than invest in recruiting a new resource and spend time training them?
- More Leaves. Some companies only give 20 days of earned leaves per year without any additional sick leaves. So, they assume that you’ll get sick, go on a holiday, take care of your child when he or she is sick, attend to your parents when they are sick and also go for that important doctor’s appointment within a span of 20 days per year. And if you also break your hip or have to get operated on, you can recuperate within 20 odd days as well. 20 days is all you need. 20 days our of 365 odd days. So, yes these companies need to think about their leave policies keeping in mind that their employees are human beings, not supercomputers.
- Projects, increments, and promotions post maternity leave shouldn’t be ignored. Women shouldn’t be asked to start from scratch. Motherhood shouldn’t reset our career clocks to zero and these companies need to make sure that doesn’t happen.
- Opportunities shouldn’t stop during pregnancy or post-maternity leaves. Policies must be changed to not punish women who are willfully not given projects by managers during pregnancy or post-motherhood. Remember what happened to a friend of mine?
“She wasn’t taken into any project during her pregnancy because she couldn’t give a commitment for an entire year at a stretch. She was ready. She was ready to commit till she would have to go on maternity leave but no one was willing to take her. Apparently, pregnancy disqualified her and made her incapable of work. They wanted a commitment of a year from a woman who would be delivering a baby in 9 months time. Ridiculous don’t you think?
So for no fault of hers, rather for the nonsense logic of some others, she was given a bad rating when she joined back. Why? Well, because she was not in any project for the better part of her pregnancy. Again, for no fault of hers. Fair? I think not.”
And wouldn't these companies rather retain us than invest in recruiting a new resource and spend time training them? #IndianInc #WorkingWomen Click To Tweet
Time and again I have broached the subject of gender parity at the workplace so much so that the fear of sounding like a broken record is now a reality. But then parity, until achieved in every sense of the way, will be a topic I write and talk about over and over again. And I’m afraid, I’ll have to keep writing till my very last breath for the shift, if any, is too microscopic.
Tell me, what do you think the Indian Inc should do to retain women in the workforce?