The ways in which many women are working and living have changed drastically since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to new research by Deloitte Global, nearly 82% of women surveyed said their lives have been negatively disrupted by the pandemic, and nearly 70% of women who have experienced these disruptions are concerned about their ability to progress in their careers.
Even before COVID struck, the trend of women dropping out of the workforce due to various reasons, most predominant being the inability to balance demands of home and workplace was worrisome. While most organizations recognize that it is a huge waste of talent and a drain on the nation financially, not much is being done about it.
In a webcast in collaboration with the Momenta Group, Neelam Dhawan, Director ICICI Bank, Anita S Guha, Talent Advisor- Chief Information Office, IBM India, and Swami Swaminathan, Resident Director Momenta, delved into what measures can be taken by organizations to arrest this trend, leveraging flexible and virtual teams to harness the power of women in building a high performing global workforce for tomorrow and the role which futuristic talent models can play in building high-performance teams.
Here are the key highlights from the discussion-
Diversity in teams is good for business
Kick-starting the discussion, Neelam stressed the fact that diversity in teams is good for business. She shared that universities in India have anywhere between 38%-45% women enrolled in various courses and if companies are not hiring from that pool, they are missing out on good talent.
Business needs the right talent and when you have diversity in teams, they are far more productive than when they are an all alike team. Today, more than any time ever before, we need people to have future skills and the right skills as we get ready to work in the post-COVID era.
So the next question that arises is how do we build high-performance teams (HPT)? One important factor is the trust and empowerment factor for the team to be able to achieve results. It is the trust and empowerment factor which makes women work far harder and they contribute their best in a team. Hence leaders need to create a sense of belonging so that women feel they belong to the team and contribute towards its success. And no HPT is going to be motivated forever unless they are recognized. For women, this recognition is far more important.
As COVID has impacted women negatively, what can organizations do to make them valued at work as well as enable them to perform the extended roles they have? The first thing to do, Neelam feels is to respect personal time, and allow flexibility of working hours to reduce the impact of the pandemic on women. Also, organizations need to be equal opportunity employers and trust the capabilities of the team rather than looking at who is performing the job. Organizations also need to be more inclusive when it comes to meetings to encourage women to participate.
Lastly, organizations need to think about diversity not only at the time of recruitment but also reflect are they retaining women and promoting them to become leaders in the organization.
COVID-19 has affected women disproportionately
Taking the conversation further, Anita reiterated that COVID-19 has affected women disproportionately as many of the industries affected by COVID are female-dominated such as airlines, hospitality, and retail. Secondly, the nature of women’s work compared to men’s work tends to be more precarious as their proportion is higher in part-time or contractual jobs. Thirdly, in terms of responsibilities, women share a greater responsibility for child care, elder care, and home care in addition to their work responsibilities. And these have become exacerbated in the times of the pandemic.
So in these circumstances, what can organizations do? First, they need to recognize those serious diversity implications which are not short term. They need to educate leaders so that they are not biased. They also need to reinforce initiatives to attract, develop, and retain talent, provide upskilling/reskilling opportunities, look at employee assistance programs and see if they can be extended further, and extend protection to gig workers as they will include a large number of women.
On an individual level, Anita shared that individuals need to build resilience-be it men or women. Individuals need to look at building resilience in holistic terms- in mind, body, and spirit. One important aspect of this is networking.
Individuals need to build diverse networks during this period-not in terms of gender diversity but also in terms of organizational and economic strata as well. They also need to increase the depth and the breadth of their skills and aim at developing multiple specializations. In short, this is a time to reflect, bounce back, and pivot if necessary.
Leveraging flexi and futuristic talent deployment models for harnessing the power of women
While it has been an unprecedented and challenging year, Swami shared that still there is a silver lining to it given the fact it was also a year of innovation and a huge paradigm shift towards flexible working hours-something that was unimaginable 15 years back. What has become clear is that the only certainty that will be sought is flexibility in everything.
The year has made smart managers roll out flexible talent deployment models based on customer demand. Consider this- over 50% increase in flexible staffing solutions was implemented by businesses this year. The year has also enabled employees to select flexible working hours to meet their work-life balance.
Swami believes that the year 2020 has been a year of pervasive technology adoption. Technology is enabling organizations to create world-class teams by playing a huge role in managing flexibility.
There is no rigidity in talent management today and companies can tap the global talent pool to choose from as required. Hence today, organizations can create world-class teams by leveraging technology to bring onboard millions of talented women, demolish rigidity in the talent space that has been around hiring women, and build flexible high-performance virtual teams as needed-at the right time, at the right place, and the right price.
Ultimately, the new mantra in times ahead will be flexibility and agile, flexible working models such as that of Momenta’s, which will not only harness the immense talent of women but also build and deliver a workforce of the future where women have a platform to thrive.
To view the entire webcast, please click here.