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Retaining The Women

There are traditional roles to be fulfilled, but more than that, there are traditional biases- mindsets too deep-rooted to have influenced DNAs. Both the above - the physical and the metaphysical need to be dealt with for any organization to be able to retain its women

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Is it different from retaining men? Why should one single out women in the discussion of retention! Its not like this is a tribe that’s been disadvantaged for centuries and requires upliftment.. or is it akin to a group that’s hitherto been traditionally relegated to a set of roles- just like in several other species. And as one looks at a change of roles (and not reversal), or an expansion of roles, its important to spend energy figuring out what upheavals that change causes and possible management of the same.

The issue in retaining women hence becomes wider than the opposite gender. There are traditional roles to be fulfilled, but more than that, there are traditional biases- mindsets too deep-rooted to have influenced DNAs.

Both the above - the physical and the metaphysical need to be dealt with for any organization to be able to retain its women.

There are several roles women have undertaken, sometimes to the exclusion of men, especially in the Indian culture. Childcare being the primary, was the first that was addressed in terms of making available facilities in organizations that employed a certain number. But what of those that may not have this minimum threshold being met? Well, for those with the true intent for it, partnerships with facilities and assurance and monitoring of quality, besides subsidization has been their way of expressing their belief in this most important role of a woman.

But then, there is more. Being available when an elderly needs care or being available when a child needs you- there are just so many times, when a woman needs to be there- because it is always more than just basic care that’s needed.

This is where it becomes tricky. There is a certain need for flexibility- long term and short term- which if unmet, manifests itself in a harried employee or worst case, an overwhelmed one- leading, several times unreported, to health issues of the mind and matter. Several organizations, worth their mettle, thus introduced flexi work hours. Provisions for work from home, working part time for limited/ extended periods of time, have become common place in the Indian business context. Though important to note, that these are very specific to industries and organizations as well as the intent of those who want to make a difference.

There are places where it is not totally unheard of a mother accompanied by a child – well behaved and managed – to work. Radical as it may be, the impact of such an opportunity on the peace of mind and thus productivity of the parent is immense.

Now if one were to just replace the above gender with another, the same policies or facilities are easier to accept and implement with the true intent. Patriarchal as we may have been, we know there are enough of the other gender(s) who are willingly (and happily) engaging in role reversal, or let’s say in expanding their spheres of influence in lives that matter to them. The availability of such facilities and options for them thus not only make it all the more easier for them to undertake the change, but also makes these benefits all the more amenable to acceptance and applaud.

The tougher issue though is being able to deal with the metaphysical.

The intent at the top known, policies implemented, facilities provided- did we get it all right to ensure the women stay. Well, not really. Its not just about what is seen and heard that matters but also what is felt that does. And that which is felt, is not always spoken or even understood by those at the crux of it.

This is where comes the need of inclusion. Most leaders worth their mettle understand the bringing in of women as being the harbinger of improving gender diversity withing their organizations. The truth is that, that is only the tip of the iceberg.

The actual difference is made when every individual in the organization recognizes value beyond just the visible differences and works proactively to ensure this value is brought into every facet of decision-making. You see, for a set of people relegated to their traditional roles, to appear in a man’s world (literally) is as much a daunting task as is the act of making their presence felt in it. Often, women, from the junior to very senior levels, find themselves silenced by the majority, who with their familiarity and confidence are able to make points (value added or otherwise), more so in the comfort akin to that which a mob feels in the frenzy of its conviction.

To sway the needle is the task of bringing in diversity. The pendulum starts moving in another direction only when those holding it to one-side, allow it to move from its vantage point. The idea is to not sway it to the opposite other, but to move it from where it’s stagnant and maybe rest at a point which provides the sum total of valued opinions (of all) and not just that of the majority.

You see, the advantage of diversity is in the multiplicity of viewpoints that it brings to the table. And it is this multiplicity that allows organizations to break the status quo and create inflexion points in their advancement- growth or otherwise. But for that to happen, women (taking the most visible form of diversity) need to have their voices heard- and that is not possible unless there are people who are willing to do so.

Thus, for organizations to retain women who are there to make a difference, it is not enough to just bring them in. It is even more important to know what it takes to keep them. And what it takes to keep them goes well beyond the realms of policies and guidelines, and all that can be documented and proven. It is to actually understand the intrinsic value and be willing to unearth the same, irrespective of the effort that requires.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house



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