Bringing more women into the workforce
World Bank data shows that India has one of the worst gender gaps at the workplace.
International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde while speaking at a global summit recently, said that if India has equal number of men and women working, its GDP will grow as much as 27%. This clearly indicates how under-utilized 50% of our population is in the overall workforce equation.
There have been many studies, which indicate that sectors like automobile, logistics, oil and gas don’t have many women working in them. In fact, their representation is as low as 1% while BFSI and IT has 5 – 6% women workforce. India Inc is yet to walk the talk about what it is doing to bring more women into its fold and what steps they have taken to ensure that the current working women population doesn’t go down. Apart from this, there is also a need to build confidence among our women folk, to not give up their careers owing to cultural issues or personal changes. This can be achieved if companies aggressively roll out women friendly HR policies.
At Core Integra, women comprise 42% of the total employee base and in the next 2 years, we plan to increase this ratio to 65%. For achieving this, we have designed many job roles, which are well suited to women. For example, as we move towards being a tech enabled HR company, it will be easier for women to continue working from either their homes or offices because it will be a digitally connected organization.
Similarly, in addition to providing work from home, flexi work hours, companies have to go an extra mile to control attrition among women workforce, which is on a rise. The numbers of working women has reduced drastically from 33.7% to 27% over the last decade, according to UN Gender Studies. For me, this is a bitter pill.
Here are 5 steps companies can take to retain their women employees:
Fast track leadership program: Identify women performers in your corporate system in the junior and mid management level. Provide them with in-house mentoring with the senior management. Launch women specific leadership programs to fast track their growth within the company.
Tweak appraisal calculations: Some women who come back from their maternity leave find themselves ineligible for appraisal cycle of the year or get a minimum hike in their salaries because of not being in office for 3 – 6 months. It is understandable that the company needs presence of their employees round the year to measure their contribution towards its growth. But this parameter has outlived its life expectancy. It is time to introduce new parameters while appraising women joining back from long leaves. If they have been working from home, calculate their contribution vis a vis number of hours put and measure productivity with the results they have achieved on a particular project. Their salary hike should be decided on their achievements even while away and not number of days of attending the office or client meetings.
Extended maternity leave: For long, the standard maternity leave duration in the corporate sector has been 3 months. But as companies become more sensitive about losing women workers, companies like Accenture, Flipkart, HUL, Godrej and Nestle have extended maternity leave to 6 months with full benefits. Women have also been given the option to extend it further up to 3 months. I would urge more companies to adopt such policies as this will bring down attrition in the organization and working mothers who will join back are likely to stay longer with you. Organizations should realize that loss of productivity and costs associated with extended maternity leave or retaining women who join from long breaks is far less than the cost of attrition, recruitment and training of an unknown and untested new hire.
Support system: There has been a growing trend in urban India where women who are on maternity leave don’t join back. It is a disturbing trend because they don’t have a trustworthy support system to take care of their newly born. In metros where the size of familys is shrinking, there is a need to support these new working mothers. While new age companies in IT and BFSI sector have opened childcare facilities inside their corporate offices, there are still a large number of big corporates who still haven’t made space for a crèche in their offices. This is the single biggest reason that result in women leaving their careers mid way.
Sexual harassment policy: This should be a non-negotiable policy in any organization. We have to make workplaces safe for our women. Many top IT companies have led the way by protecting their women employees against any kind of harassment in the organization, even if that means sacking their CEOs who have turned the fortunes of the companies but couldn’t live up to the moral standards of behavior acceptable in an organization. A sexual harassment cell in any company should have an independent consultant on board who shall be available to women employees, should they need to talk. Many harassment cases don’t see the light of day because of under representation of women on such a panel.
Companies today have realized that they are losing an extremely valuable resource to reasons which can be addressed with minor changes and some sensitization on their part. The ones who want to stay on top are aggressively working towards retaining their women employees.
The corporate world knows that we need more participation from women in their companies so let’s not make it difficult for them to join work after sabbaticals. We have to work collectively to improve women representation in the workforce.
By Prasanna Soparkar
Founder and MD, Core Integra