How Indian Inc Can Retain Women In The Workforce

Credit: Working Women by StockLite via Shutterstock


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?



Linking to #mg hosted by Mackenzie Glanville

19 thoughts on “How Indian Inc Can Retain Women In The Workforce”

  1. Well said. I’m hoping that work based parity becomes a reality sooner than later. In fact a lot of companies now encourage working from home to reduce the carbon footprint. It just makes practical sense. As for mothers, you’re right. Giving birth changes our bodies temporarily. Our minds and brains don’t change. So why assume that our work will suffer? If anything I’d say motherhood makes women keener and more focused. My first job after having a kid, I was more productive, more streamlined and more capable than anything I’d done before that. It takes conscious effort and commitment. I’d like to see that awarded and appreciated.

    1. I hope so too, Shailaja. You know what gets my goat? Asking for something which is a must is seen as some kind of request for something extra. The fight is on several fronts and as I said, I’m not too sure if something will change in my lifetime but I can still try and speak up. Thank you for you support because for women like me support from fellow women is so so very important, even if it is in the form of understanding or just a nod.
      NabanitaDhar recently posted…How Indian Inc Can Retain Women In The WorkforceMy Profile

  2. I don’t understand why with IT you can’t work from home at least a few days a week. Working and also maintaining home life and raising children is hard. I am having a dilemma at the moment as we need to bring more income into our home, yet I need to be there to take and pick up my children from school. It is really tricky and yet we have it pretty good in Australia #mg

  3. Yes, I cannot understand the same. If an employee is committed, they will work even more optimally from home. If it is not a good employee in the first place, they would while away time even from a workplace. And besides, one can do Skypes etc. and does not need to be physically present at all times. There is a lot that still needs to be done. Somehow, we can’t get over our thinking of just staying for a number of hours equalling productivity. My dad used to work for Income Tax Dept. and they had a creche in every office. Imagine! If a company could do that imagine the kind of high-quality resources they would attract. But then it needs a little foresight and more importantly empathy. Hope more companies wake up to this. Good suggestions there.

    1. Thanks , Rachna. The thing is the workplace psyche or mentality has not really evolved from being male-centered. Though women are working more and more these days, the policies and the way things are perceived are still pointing towards a time when men formed the workforce and women only stayed at home to take care fo kids. And that makes it all the more difficult to change things. And as you know all too well, employers at least in India lack empathy, I can’t comment on those outside because I don’t really know
      NabanitaDhar recently posted…How Indian Inc Can Retain Women In The WorkforceMy Profile

  4. It’s not just motherhood, some companies are averse to hiring even married females. While I don’t like it, I do understood the reason behind it. Most Indian females are conditioned to give second priority to their career. They are expected to be the primary care-givers at home. They are expected to drop everything at a moment’s notice, to attend to family needs. While men are expected to do the same for their company. Personally, I don’t see why we need more than 20 days of paid-leave in a year. I’d rather the company lets me rejoin workforce at the same pay, once the hip is mended. Indian women should stop expecting extra benefits from their employers in order to bridge this disparity.

    1. It’s sad that companies think that way or anyone to think that way. It is wrong to assume that women will not give importance to their careers. On what basis can someone say that this female will drop everything for her family until she actually does? Maybe she wants to work. When women are subjected to prejudice and all sorts of judgement from the moment they become mothers, it is but their right to be provided with these facilities; facilities and not extra benefits, mind you. We are not saying that pay us and give us perks and we won’t work. I wish women could provide a united front to face these issues. I’m good at what I do and I do not intend to not give work priority, does that mean I should be overlooked? Certainly not. And when companies expect us to work more than 9 hours a day without paying extra or without work from home, or without incentives, 20 days is pretty less. But then again, these are just my views 🙂
      NabanitaDhar recently posted…How Indian Inc Can Retain Women In The WorkforceMy Profile

  5. You’ve raised some very valid points, Nabanita. I think only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. Anyone who has not been there, won’t really understand how frustrating it can be for women to continue with a career path under the present situation. It is worse for nuclear families because we don’t have any extra support for women especially when kids fall ill for an extended period of time and most cases usually have women opting out of full-time employment because the men are unable to take time off to be with a sick child on a regular basis. I’ve borne the brunt of this and know that unless those fancy so-called work-life-balance policies are implemented and actual changes reflected in the way work is organised, nothing will really change.

    1. You said it Esha, only the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. I think I read it in Lean In or Arianna Huffington’s Thrive that women bear the brunt of an office environment which is only conducive to male employees who do not have to do anything but focus on their careers. of course, that doesn’t mean women are not focused on their careers, it’s just that women can focus on multiple things together with a little understanding from the employers.
      NabanitaDhar recently posted…How Indian Inc Can Retain Women In The WorkforceMy Profile

  6. A well reputed HR firm very directly asked me in a job interview regarding my family planning priorities. They do not want a female employee who would get pregnant in the middle of important work assignments or at least not before 5 year time. In spite of being selected with a very good pay package, I was other way round made to say no. I have my biological clock which cannot wait.
    Nabanita you are very right by saying that we need some mandatory facilities to raise a healthy child.

  7. While my company is very flexible on the WFH options, creche at office and supporting returning mothers, I have never faced major issues other than being overseen for some onsite options. But, the 20 days is very less which we too have. As we mostly take leaves when our well-oiled wheel at home stops functioning, like someone is ill or the maid is on leave. For females, they should increase the leaves which they can credit back by working on some other day instead. But, we still have a long way to go for gender parity.

  8. All your points are valid. It is a shame that the companies in the IT sector cannot allow the employees to work from home. Blame it on the traditional mindset of the managers to see their staff present in front of their eyes and measuring productivity in terms of swipe-in and swipe-out.

  9. Inequality impacts everyone and to me it seems very short sighted of companies to not take advantage of their already trained employees. We have friends from India and it does sound much worse there. Here in England it is still tough for a woman to get a job once she has taken a career break. It is as if they think women lose their skills but the contrary is true. Raising children teaches us so much and it gives us more to offer. Patience, relationship skills, determination and so on. #mg

  10. This all hurts me. I feel that women employees inspite of being more stable and loyal than their male counterparts lose out on the fact that life changing event like marriage and child birth are normal. How hard are flexible hours? How hard is it to support women with children to work per their potential? My company provides 28 days of leaves an year along with a maternity break of 180 days. We had tie-ups with creches and on the campus too. However, it is important to sensitise people managers. You are right that it’s not just about policies but people who lead. A great post, Nabanita and you have given me some food for thought.

  11. I work in IT in the west and I am desk-bound and staring at an inbox all day: all my work is online with no interaction with staff at all, yet I know that there would never be enough trust to allow us to work even one day from home. Micro-management is alive and well: they want yo where they can see you, whether you are working (or surfing the net, as half our department are doing all day). It’s an ingrained culture based on an outdated model and I wish it would change.

  12. It’s one of the biggest issues with corporates who take a rigid and patriarch stand. Things must change. It’s high time they adapt or else, they stand to lose such capable women which is one of their wealth. I have always believed in flexibility and people can work from home as long as the work is done. Kudos for the research done in writing this post. Creche at work is such a good idea and I dunno whether they give an allocation to women who just gave birth. It’s a need.

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