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.
So what is one challenge that women still face at workplace?
Hear the experts talk about it
Ira Gupta - HR Head, Microsoft
As we transform our business and culture, the value proposition for diversity and inclusion within Microsoft is increasingly clear - a diverse and inclusive workforce will yield better products and solutions for our customers, and better experiences for our employees.
Our cultural transformation will not take place overnight. It will take steadfast commitment, accountability, targeted actions – and time. Diversity and inclusion are critical underpinnings to our evolving culture at Microsoft and powerful bridges to the marketplace. Along with our industry peers, we need to continue working together to land thoughtful, enduring and practical initiatives that transform our workforce for the benefit of the industry, our employees and our customers. Addressing individual and organizational capability through various programs like D&I initiatives like Confluence- our annual D&I conference, Unconscious bias training etc. I believe leaders role modelling the desired behaviour is very powerful, we continuously coach new managers to be accountable on building intentional inclusion in their teams.
Rajesh Padmanabhan - Director & Group CHRO, Welspun Group
The one challenge women face at workplace is the need of empathy and understanding from the system when they take career breaks or sabbaticals and get back to work. The system should consider the break fairly and not discount performance scores and /or providing growth opportunities. This can be mitigated by making conducive policies and establishing fair practices. Leadership needs to drive this hard as part of process and culture and be at it all the time."
Prem Singh - President - Global Human Resources at Wockhardt Ltd
The new age corporate women today is not only smart and strong but also technically skilled and emotionally sturdier. Woman are born master jugglers who learn this art early on in their life right from planning, organizing, budgeting, conflict management etc. But when it comes to the corporate world their competence is often subjected to special scrutiny and barriers – yes the legendary glass-ceiling particularly in matters of elevation. This is one of the reasons why women are underrepresented across organizations. We may talk endlessly about gender diversity but let me tell you that it’s not a woman’s issue, it’s a human Issue. It affects us all, as men and women are two sides of the same coin. Women all together bring a different perspective to the table and not having adequate women in the C-suite is detrimental for the organization. And how can we better address this? Top management should act as a custodian of gender diversity and integrate it in the organization culture, sensitize and engage first line managers on this mission, create flexible policies, share success stories of women role models within the organization, promote equal pay for equal work, design accelerated developmental initiatives for women etc. I am sure there’s more that can be done in this regard if given a conscious thought.
Meher Sarid - Group President – Corporate Affairs, Marketing & HR, Oxigen Services
While I feel Gender biased decisions at work is one challenge that's quite prevalent, but Safety & Work Life Balance Management to my mind takes priority, without which I feel any woman stepping out to work would fail….Often we see women leave jobs with excuses around distance to travel or safety while commuting to the work place or family pressures. Hence, companies do become cautious, if hiring someone for nightshifts or if the role demands extended hours at work or frequent travel.
Many small companies do not even make provisions for safety of women employees, nor provide them with flexibility. Such organizations opt to take a short cut and not hire females as they consider them a burden. However, we have seen many mid to large sized organizations, open to hiring women, and Oxigen is one such company. We believe that women are far more organized and committed to deliver. However, we do wish to ensure that the women we hire do have the support from the family, while she takes up a job. We provide her the wings at work, and hope her family does the same at home. And so we do end up asking questions related to their plans for marriage, family planning, kids, spouse, in laws etc., which perhaps may not look right to a lady candidate, but is very important, as a company would like to have someone that's ready to battle it all out.
Puneet Khurana- Vice President and Head- HR, Policybazaar.com
But when you have male and female working in an organization, there will be challenges faced by them. How you can help your employees to overcome those challenges. I here, strongly disagree with few suggestions to be a little softer to either of the gender when it comes to performance of deliverable. You can differentiate only on the potential but not on gender, as after-all the job is chosen by the individual keeping in mind the challenges he/she might face.
As HR, one should help all employees equally to overcome any professional challenges. There is no permanent solution to the situations. You can have a councillor or may have a concierge desk to take care of extra-curricular activities of employees. One can offer time-out, work from home, and short leave etc type of quick fixes. Full flexibility and support on Maternity benefits and some small but effective work-arounds for everyday issues with employees are must.”
Sudhakar Gande – Vice Chairman at AXISCADES – (technology player in the aerospace and defence sector)
Women graduating from engineering or pure sciences are in short supply. The situation is changing slowly but surely. Today women are at the forefront working on cutting-edge technology and innovations and their contributions are getting the due recognition. In a field where error-free performance is an absolute criterion, we find meritorious women are competent in delivering world-class results. Few years ago, we had only 5% women engineers, today we have 11%. We took a conscious decision to increase the ratio of women scientists and engineers. Industry-wise the ratio of women scientists and engineers are gradually increasing. Corporates cannot afford gender disparity in knowledge sector or for that matter any other sectors. There are plenty of avenues for ambitious women professional.
Sonia Huria, SVP & Head, Corporate Communications & CSR at Viacom18
The biggest challenge, to my mind, that a woman faces today at the workplace is what I call the ‘Cliché Conundrum’ – the cyclical dilemma of trying to break a once valid cliché that has lost relevance in the new age workplace. Women today lead multinational corporations, financial institutions, defense forces and even countries! There is hardly a discipline of the human profession that does not have women working in it. And yet a sizeable population of women professionals are concerned about fighting the hackneyed stereotype. In an age where Emotional Intelligence is the need of the hour, at the workplace, I think it’s time we pause, reflect and embrace our strength of marrying empathy and practicality. We are limited only by our imagination, so the one big challenge to overcome is the propensity to bind our imagination to clichés!