Microsoft Programs Build Culture To Retain And Welcome Women After Career Breaks

Microsoft has designed programs which help women who have been on career breaks get back into the workforce through mentoring and learning: Ira Gupta, CHRO, Microsoft India


Women need to overcome quite some challenges at the workplaces, besides managing with the gender pay gap still being colossal. Maternity leave hampers their career growth, making it difficult for them to make their way back into the organization. 

Ira Gupta, Head of Human Resources at Microsoft India talks about certain challenges for women in the workforce and how organizations can ramp up their efforts to help women overcome these challenges. 

How can organizations make workplaces more women-friendly and engage women employees better?

Research shows that diverse organizations are more successful. At Microsoft, we want to build an organization that is representative of the world we live in. This is not only a core tenet of our culture but also central to us being able to achieve our mission of “empowering every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”

At Microsoft, we’ve been invested in building an organization where people can come as they are and do what they love. This means that we work to make our culture, benefits, policies, and programs inclusive to all genders including women. 

As a company, we are driven by an expansive vision to help people realize their own potential. We believe in fostering a culture founded in a growth mindset to continually work towards delivering our mission.

How big is the challenge of finding and retaining a diverse workforce? How does it impact the workplace ecosystem?

At Microsoft India, we have a wide range of programs aimed at trying to attract, recruit, retain, and nurture the best talent. We do this because we want to build a company that truly represents the diversity that exists in the world we operate in. A great example of diversity and inclusion initiatives is Microsoft’s Women Employee Resource Group (ERG) – Women at Microsoft (W@M) which was established to help foster diversity and inclusion at the workplace. This 18K strong worldwide member ERG, partners within regions & across organizationally aligned women’s networks to organize seminars, speaker series, networking events, mentoring, and volunteer opportunities. The primary objective of such programs is to showcase the inclusive work environment for people from all generations, gender, and ability.

We also recognize some industry-wide trends in the participation of women in the workforce, specifically in technology-oriented roles. As a company, we’ve been investing in programs such as Springboard which targets bringing women who’ve taken career breaks back into the workforce. Programs like DigiGrilz and Codess are also working to have more women choose and continue with STEM education. 

How challenging is work management for a woman employee going on maternity leave? 

At Microsoft, we understand that there are certain life stages where employees would need more support. We are committed to boosting a healthy and productive work environment as well as emotional upliftment of our employees. We also understand how important it is for new mothers to not only be able to spend time with their babies but also be able to transition back to work effectively. Towards this, the company offers multiple support systems and programs to its employees, so they are cared for both professionally and personally:

  • In February 2016, Microsoft India enhanced its maternity leave policies to 26 weeks in February 2016 - much before the ruling by Honourable Supreme court in 2018. Besides these, the company also offers adoption and surrogacy leaves.
  • Apart from the 26 weeks of maternity leave, Microsoft India also offers employees an option of availing additional leave up to three months and flexible work arrangements for up to two years.
  • In addition, at Microsoft, we have the Springboard programme, which is designed to bring in women who have taken a career break because of life events like maternity. The program offers structured mentorship, live projects, learning opportunities and a strong onboarding which helps women accelerate their transition back to work
  • Besides this, many women employees also chose to avail of our flexible work arrangement policy, which permits them to work fewer hours and/or remotely, based on their choices.
  • Tools like Teams, Kaizala, and Office365 enable employees to be connected to their work whenever they want to while being present with their family when they need to
  • The enhancements to our maternity benefits are intended to ensure our women employees have the time and support they need to embrace this new phase of life. 

More than half of the women quitting their job never return to work. Is it lack of opportunities and growth prospects that women find challenging when returning to the workforce?

According to a report by the Indian Women Network in 2018, almost 91 percent of women who take a break in India want to come back to work. However, the total women in the workforce today are at 34 percent and this number is significantly lower at senior levels. Clearly, there is work to be done around helping women reenter the workforce.  

At Microsoft, we recognize that reentering the workforce after a career break can be difficult. It is why we’ve invested in 3 areas as part of our Springboard program. Reskilling: Ensuring that the women we hire through Springboard are provided opportunities to learn the latest technologies as they come back to work. Mentoring:  That can be a great support system as a woman is making career choices and Flexibility: Which is enabled by tools like Office 365, Teams and Kaizala and allows our employees to be where they need to and at the same time stay connected when they want to. 

Creating an inclusive environment helps attract and retain talented employees as well as support their professional and personal advancement, which results in more innovative products and solutions for customers. At Microsoft India, we have several programs and initiatives aimed at recruiting, retaining, and nurturing diverse talent. At Microsoft we truly believe in supporting women at every stage of their life journey – inspiring and empowering them through a career in technology. 

Tags assigned to this article:
microsoft culture career women employees Recruiting


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