Most companies in India realize the importance of Gender Diversity. Research says improved women participation in the workforce will result in strong financials, diverse views and enhanced employer brand. With this understanding companies have started investing in women friendly policies (most popular listed below):
- Extended Maternity Breaks
- Work from Home/ Flexi working arrangements
- Onsite Daycare Arrangements
- Coaching and Mentoring of Women employees
- Women "only" roles within functions
An interview of around 100 working mothers earlier this year suggested that the companies are providing much more flexibility and facilities to the working mothers in this decade when compared to the last. But inspite of that as per the latest ILO report, India witnessed massive decline of women workers in the last decade, which is highest in the world. India had 10% less women in workforce in 2015 when compared to 2005, which requires us to reflect and ask a few questions to the companies who are consciously working towards this cause.
The question to these companies is if this is enough? Should the companies be focusing only on women employees to support Gender Diversity ?
Will the working mother be able to manage hard deadlines when her husband is travelling 15 days in a month even though her company provides her work from home facility? Will the working mother be able to travel extensively if her husband is also travelling? Will the working mother be able to get the best performance rating if she is unable to go for meetings and meet deadlines as she has a sick child to attend? Will the working mother be able to take the international opportunity if she is the primary care giver at home?
It’s important that companies reflect and assess if the real solution to meet Gender Diversity target is to focus only on women oriented policies, or do they need to think about providing holistic parental support benefits/policies. Policies that will better equip men to be an active parent partner to support their wives through the maternity break transition, a hard client commitment or an extensive travel schedule.
What are Parental Support policies? These are policies that make employees better equipped to handle and manage the role of a parent. It’s important that the Human Resource department looks at parental support policies not only for the Gender Diversity cause, but also because there is an increasing phenomenon of the #Working Dads guilt(where working dads have lesser productivity due to stress and pressure of work-home commitments). Some of the parental support policies that are gender neutral are mentioned below:
- Parenting resource group (material and resources to make parenting easier) – Online or Offline
- Parenting sessions/coaching
- Onsite Childcare arrangement
- Increased leave for primary care giver / Increased parental leave
Some additional examples of the parental benefits given by companies that have definitely made their working parents happy–Onsite recreational facility centre for kids, Internal company childcare resource and support group (for all child related queries), Counselling/ coaching for new parents, Primary care giving parent gets 12 weeks of leave, Help at Home bulletin board for parents where childcare options are discovered etc, Managing work and parenting workshops etc.
With the increasing focus on Gender Diversity, it’s important that companies also equally focus on holistic parental support policies (for both men and women), as that may go a long way in building towards a Gender Balanced Future.