For over a century, International Women's Day has been celebrated as an occasion to recognise women's achievements and promote gender equality worldwide. Despite progress, biases, and discrimination against women persist, including in the workplace. A major contributing factor to this is gender inequality, besides multiple research suggesting that hiring more women in the workplace can have a number of positive effects.
A few advantages of hiring female employees include gaining a fresh viewpoint, increasing efficiency, and acquiring a wider range of skills, experiences, and ideas which can enhance decision-making, problem-solving, and overall profitability. Additionally, diversity promotes hospitable corporate culture. When women feel appreciated and esteemed in the workplace, they tend to be more involved and driven, which can ultimately result in better company morale.
Furthermore, it is also an employer’s social responsibility to foster gender equality and diversity within the workforce. Hiring more women showcases dedication to the very cause and serves as a role model for other businesses to emulate. This leads to the question of how to recruit and retain more women in the workplace. To address this, People Matters got in touch with industry experts and leaders and identified these practical solutions.
1. Equal pay for equal work
Employees should receive fair compensation for their work regardless of gender. Not only it is a matter of basic fairness and equality, but any gender deserves to be paid the same as men for doing the same work, and any pay disparities based on gender are a violation of this fundamental principle. Moreover, companies that prioritise equal pay are likely to have better employee retention and engagement, which can lead to increased productivity and profitability, believes Mr Praveen Menon, Chief People Officer at IndiaFirst Life.
“At IndiaFirst Life, we are committed to fostering a merit-based culture that supports the goals and aspirations of every individual. As part of our rewards strategy, we conduct an annual compensation review. An integral aspect of this review is to ensure that individuals receive fair and equitable rewards based on their performance, regardless of gender or any other factor, for similar levels of work,” he said.
2. Supportive ecosystem for postpartum employees
Many working mothers face significant challenges when returning to work after having a child, including the need to balance work and family responsibilities and the risk of facing discrimination or bias in the workplace. Organisations must have a proactive approach to help women in such sensitive scenarios. Not only is this great for the mental health of the workforce, but further increases employee retention, and job satisfaction, and ultimately contributes to overall success.
“Offering support to returning mothers by providing flexible working arrangements in addition to the leave entitlements under the Maternity Act is extremely important. At IndiaFirst Life, we have put in place a Maternity Handbook to address dilemmas that expectant mothers and their managers may face during this critical period of their life. This is an effort to help expecting/new mothers get answers to several questions like Role Continuity, Maternity Leave and Extensions, Types of Leave and Maternity Benefits and more importantly help managers prepare and respond sensitively to such employees,” Chief People Officer at IndiaFirst Life told People Matters.
3. Foster gender uniformity
Simply hiring more women is not enough. Organisations must also ensure that their workplace culture is inclusive and supportive of all employees. This includes offering equal opportunities for career advancement and professional development, as well as ensuring that women are not subjected to any form of harassment or discrimination,” stated Ms Alifiya Johar, who is the Head HR of Makemyhouse.com.
“Hiring more women in an organisation should not lead to gender bias, instead it should effectively promote diversity and equality in the corporate culture. To accommodate more female talent in your workplace, you need to formulate policies and develop practices that are women-friendly as well as gender-inclusive. Women need more than just monetary benefits and associated perks. They are likely to prefer companies with an ideal male-to-female ratio, a safe working environment, and employers who acknowledge their real-life concerns,” she said.
4. Menstrual wellbeing policies
Several countries, including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and Indonesia, have already implemented menstrual leave policies. In India, there are limited companies that have introduced menstrual leaves for their female employees. Simpl being one of them believes it is important for organisations to consider the holistic needs of their female employees. Offering flexible work arrangements and accommodations during menstrual cycles could be a strong step towards promoting women's health and well-being in the workplace.
“At Simpl, we recently launched menstrual leaves for our women employees. We are also working in a hybrid format to provide flexibility to those juggling work and family responsibilities. The above intrinsic will help with the hygiene of a gender-neutral, unbiased hiring process. What is also important is to continuously listen to employee feedback and respond with agility and empathy,” suggested Ms Sneha Arora, Chief Human Resources Officer at Simpl.
5. Boost women's leadership representation
Women have made significant strides in leadership roles in recent years, but they continue to face significant barriers and biases that limit their opportunities. Abhilasha Negi, the co-founder of a travel fintech platform, SanKash, stated that women represent less than 10 per cent of leadership—both as founders and as members of executive boards of fintech firms in India.
“As women are 50 per cent of the population, and potential fintech users, we need to work on more effective ways to take this participation to a higher number. This can be achieved by overhauling the recruitment to hire gender balance teams and have gender-neutral job titles. Focus on providing a cultural add along with a cultural fit to give more room for inclusivity of women from other industries to join in,” she advised.
6. Engage in continuous learning and development
In today's rapidly changing job market, everyone needs to keep updating their skills and knowledge to stay relevant and competitive. This is especially true for women, who often face unique challenges in their careers. Therefore, Anjali Raghuvanshi, Chief People Officer of Randstad India believes that women should take responsibility for their own professional development and seek out opportunities to re-skill and upskill themselves.
“While it is true that organisations across sectors will have to work towards bringing more women to the workforce, a part of the onus also lies with the candidates. As the job market is getting extremely competitive, women employees can take some strategic steps to re-skill and upskill to become more employable. Some skills like empathic leadership, effective listening, team engagement, counselling and seamless multi-tasking come naturally to women and can help them drive great results when complemented with the technical skill set,” she said.
“Additionally, they must seek out opportunities to learn new skills, either through formal education or through online certified courses especially in hot in-demand skills like Big Data, AI/ML, data analysis, cloud computing, Java, etc. They must also look for on-job skill development and learning by taking on new projects or volunteering for extra responsibilities,” added Anjali.
Networking is an essential aspect of career development for men and women alike. But for women particularly, having more professional contacts in male-dominated fields can do wonders and can allow them to overcome barriers and achieve much more. “Having a strong personal brand can be a great way to gain experience, build skills, and demonstrate initiative. Being flexible and adaptable can help women stay ahead of the curve and remain competitive in the job market,” suggested the Chief People Officer of Randstad India.
8. Cultivate a caring ambience
It’s no secret that women often face multiple responsibilities and commitments outside of work, such as childcare and household duties, which can make it challenging to balance work and personal life. Flexible work arrangements can help women manage these responsibilities and reduce work-related stress.
"It’s the need of the hour for organisations to create a supportive environment that values work-life balance, or else women tend to quit jobs. To attract and retain talented women in the workforce, providing simple and empathetic benefits like flexible work hours, parental leave, and wellness programs would be a great boost. When organisations invest in women's growth and well-being, there is higher retention and loyalty among the workforce. Additionally, diversity and inclusion at workplaces make the employees feel valued, respected and motivated to contribute their best work,” Richa Telang- Founder and CEO of TrueBlue Advisory told PM.
On this International Women's Day, let's commemorate the accomplishments of women in the workplace and acknowledge their valuable contributions. Let's unite to shape a more prosperous future for everyone!