Championing Indian women who want to work
More women than men in India hold graduate degrees, yet the country’s workforce does not reflect that – and not because they want to be left out, but because this is a nation that is anchored by it’s women who are then not spared to join the job market, according to Sheroes Founder Sairee Chahal.
“We’re a country of big weddings, big families, 45 festivals a year – women anchor this economy, any woman with no job already has a job,” says Chahal, who founded female-oriented online career destination, Sheroes in 2014.
Likening the traditional Indian family structure to be very much a “single parent” one – where men go out and work, while the women run the households, looking after children and elderly parents, Chahal said she wanted to create something that fit every woman’s lifestyle.
According to the World Economic Forum, India has 24% women in the workforce, ranking 114 out of 131 countries in female labor force participation. It is one of the few countries in which participation is actually shrinking.
The Sheroes Report: Women at Work India, 2014 says almost 48% of women drop out of the workforce before they reach the middle of their careers.
The abysmal statistics go on, but it’s more interesting to ask why this is happening, especially in a nation where women are so highly educated. According to Sheroes, of the 85% students who go on to pursue graduate degrees in India, 42% of them are women, who tend to rank higher on the academic scoring scale.
“Everything we see related to Indian women on the internet is shopping, beauty, parenting, Bollywood,” says Chahal, “the urban Indian woman has changed, we have the largest pool of women graduates anywhere in the world, who have priorities and aspirations that are very different.”
Realizing that she was still seeing content from 1990 online when it came to career options for Indian women, Chahal says she saw that Indian women just did not have access to information that would enable them to make choices and find options that would work for them.
The premise behind Sheroes is to provide women with work options – whether they are just looking for something they can do, something that fits with their flexible lives as a family-anchors, or a solid corporate career. Providing them with an eco-system of information, support, advice, and diverse, flexible opportunities, Chahal says they aim not to be just a career-go-to but something that anyone with the slightest hint of a career question can use.
“Our approach as a country has been very career-centric, ‘lets build a job portal’, but you can only get a job if you know what you want to do,” says Chahal, “contextually in India we need this because women’s careers are not on the map.”
She cites India’s 17% public-sector workforce participation, and that women entrepreneurs get less than 2% of the funding opportunities given to men in India.
In India career impediments, given a supportive husband and family-in-law, can include traveling long distances in an unsafe environment to get to work.
This is one of the reasons Chahal, herself the mother of a young child, initially started by incorporating Fleximoms, a community-based solutions provider for mothers who want to get involved in the work force on a more flexible basis.
She says Sheroes aims to connect one million women with work opportunities within the next three years, and impact over a hundred million women in the next decade, giving them support they may not have had before.
“It’s for any women with an aspiration, no matter how small or large,” says Chahal.
Working with companies as well as university campuses, the portal already has over 6000 companies and half a million women signed up. They raised an angel round of about $300,000 (5 crore Indian Rupees) in August.
This article was originally published here.