Experts On Developing Conducive Policies To Bring Back Women Talent

Women often face multiple challenges in returning to the mainstream workforce, including a lack of opportunities and suitable roles. People leaders from across the industries, ponder and share their action plans that focus on bringing women to the workforce post their career breaks or sabbaticals


Companies are turning more sensitive, and realising the need to bring back women to the workforce. Indian corporate giants are focused on drafting policies that could enable women to rejoin the workforce seamlessly. Women often face multiple challenges in returning to the mainstream workforce, including a lack of opportunities and suitable roles. 

The pandemic which accelerated an economic slump in the country has made it difficult for working professionals to survive the redundancy or job loss. However, women, in this case, have been in the front seat, unfortunately. A McKinsey report suggests that women’s jobs are 1.8 times more vulnerable to this crisis than men’s jobs. As we proceed from here, we are also witnessing a positive shift wherein more and more women are now taking up the LifeLongLearning route to bounce back into the workforce.

At KPMG, for the whole month of September, they have been running a Returning Women’s Program with a focus on hiring women who want to start working after a break. That particular program focuses on roles where they have built more flexibility of work schedules/ locations, and along with many policies for flexi-working is designed specifically for mid-career women who want to start their second innings. 

Commenting on the same, Sunit Sinha, Partner and Head – People, Performance and Culture, KPMG, India mentions, “Research shows that a more diverse workplace is known to be far more innovative and also has a sense of balance, and having women leaders visibly succeed has a multiplier effect that encourages others to step up as well. Becoming more inclusive, more pluralistic in our thinking and actions are just some of the many benefits to the company’s culture.”

One key differentiator that helps diverse talent to settle down is creating a truly inclusive environment where every employee can bring their authentic selves to work. In the context of women who return to work – while it is important for organisations to have a structured program for returning professionals, it is equally important to provide a facilitative ecosystem.

Mayank Kumar, Co-founder and MD, upGrad believes, “It is critical to have a women-diversified workforce across teams in a company to not only impact the company’s development but to also propel the nation's economic growth, at large.” upGrad’s Kumar adds, that at upGrad, we have over 40% women in the leadership roles, that is Director and above.

Multiple women learners at upGrad have asserted the benefits of upskilling and how it has helped them to drive meaningful career outcomes with exceptional salary hikes despite returning from a sabbatical. One such example is of the woman upGrad learner Kavitha MS who successfully returned to IT after a career gap of over 13 years. She enrolled herself for the Executive PG Programme in Data Science and eventually moved to also pursue MSc in Data Science. Kavitha completed these programs with a distinction and is currently working as a Project Manager with a global IT firm. The second example is of Shalini Ravi who made a comeback after a 7 year-long sabbatical. Ravi did a PG diploma course in Data Science which helped her to upskill and get a job as a Data Scientist from being a Data Analyst.

Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is not a ‘nice to have’ but it is the ‘right thing to do’ and a business imperative. When women have had a break after having a baby or for taking care of an elderly family member, organisations shall act as mentors and help them step back into the corporate space.

Lakshmi R Rajagopal, Head of Diversity & Inclusion, Fidelity Investments India shares, “We have a specific six-month program for women returning to work called ‘Resume’ that aims to tap into a diverse talent pool of prospective hires who can bring thought and experience diversity to the organization. The women participants join the company initially for a period of six months where we provide the selected participants mentorship and development opportunities to learn and integrate into project teams.” 

Leaders today have a great responsibility – responsibility to act now and act fast. Leaders should resist the normal and sharpen focus on DEI. Fidelity Investment’s Lakshmi Rajagopal ponders on fostering core cultural values and suggests ways that could help organizations get on the right track. 

- Creating a safe and respectful workplace: This would mean complete debiasing and nudging managers and team members who would be interacting with the cohort and making them understand and appreciate the organization’s focus on diversity and inclusion. 

- Forming a strong ‘ally network’: Having a strong ally/buddy network will go a long way in ensuring women who return integrate seamlessly. This could consist of women with a similar lived experience of going through the “returnship” themselves. 

- Cultivating leaders as change agents: Last but not the least, the senior leadership must drive the desired changes across the organization. Having executive sponsors from the senior leadership team and having them openly discuss the merits of the return to work programs for the organization would go a long way in shaping an inclusive culture. 

To enable the return of women employees into the mainstay workforce, organisations need to develop active action-oriented strategies and people policies. Women often face problems if the culture of the company does not suffice their workspace requirements. Also, the recruitment process needs to be focused and reworked to enhance the steps of hiring to bring back the women talent with more ease. The top-down leadership could do wonders and can lead to a multiplier effect - encourages others to step up as well. 


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