You're Just As Responsible As Your Company For Your Career Growth
India is one of the few countries where the number of educated women is increasing while the percentage of women in the workplace is decreasing. There have been instances where companies supporting the diversity initiative hire women employees, plan for their development and growth and yet face rising attrition of their women employees. Only 27% of India’s women are participating in the workforce according to a World Bank report.
There are various reasons for this state of affairs – gender discrimination in workplaces, lack of access to facilities such as childcare, gender pay gap, bias in hiring, lack of flexibility in working conditions, sexual harassment, safety, etc.
Organisations can address this setback, by having an intentional and focused approach to increase diversity. Companies having such an approach, make considerable progress. Setting goals in hiring, adapting inclusive policies, tracking progress metrics sets up organisations for success.
Bridging The Gap
While both women and men start out as equals with same pay, responsibilities and aspirations, once women have children, it is observed that they tend to be moved into support roles.
Men on the other hand, get ‘hot jobs’ (i.e. highly visible jobs) that lead to the next level. This enables them to advance faster while women feel discouraged and leave.
Organizations should plan on having strong reintegration programs and ensure that women at workplace continue to receive challenging opportunities that commensurate with their skills and competencies.
India Inc. needs to understand that women will continue to work in an organization only if they feel their career is progressing. Catalyst research found that women are more likely to stay with an organization and remain loyal, if they felt that their employer was supporting them.
Organisations can track progress of men and women by monitoring two factors – the role that they have been currently assigned and the time spent in that particular role – before considering promotion. This type of data helps in taking corrective actions effectively, which in turn instills more confidence in women and prepares them to take up leadership roles.
While organizations introduce several programmes to address this issue, it has been observed repeatedly, that only some of them are implemented. Companies are constantly struggling to understand what will help in retaining women employees.
The opportunity for organizations here is to align all their programs to business goals. The faster they do that, the sooner the business case of diversity and inclusion becomes clear to everyone in the organisation.
Further, leaders need to take accountability, track the progress and ensure women are provided with a healthy and inclusive work environment.
Express And Feel Empowered
While companies take initiatives to create a work environment that is all inclusive, women too should take some proactive steps.
The very first step would be to express what you want. In India, women hesitate to express their career aspirations, not only to their managers but even to their family. It’s important to have a conversation with family members and talk about career aspirations.
Initiating a conversation with the employer about one’s needs and wants from a career is imperative in fostering a cooperative and productive relationship. The following are a few tips for women to successfully negotiate their way to the top:
Identify priorities, skills, professional interests and responsibilities to take on.
Ascertain the company’s strategic plan and identify prospects that will benefit them.
Interact and learn from colleagues who have successfully negotiated their role in the past.
Create a proposal spelling out accomplishments, scope and specific goals for the new role, possible positive impact to be expected and support/resources needed to succeed.
Set up a meeting with managers to discuss questions, concerns and suggest alternatives, if needed.
Agree on next steps and check in regularly to discuss progress/issues.
Pay it forward and share the experience to empower others.
If companies look at the whole exercise of attracting, retaining and promoting women employees as an investment that will benefit the organization, they will eventually have more innovative and high-performing teams and happier employees.
This article is shared by Ms. Shachi Irde, Vice President and Executive Director, Catalyst India WRC. Catalyst is the leading nonprofit organization with a mission to accelerate progress for women through workplace inclusion.