Workplace success today in India depends on women and men, yet less than five percent of board-level positions are occupied by women globally, as referenced in a short study done by Deborah L. Rhode and Barbara Kellerman women and leadership few years ago. Recent surveys indicate a marked decline of women in top leadership positions. Beyond deep-seated stereotypes about females at work, one key reason is that the majority of women give up work for familial needs. Women might also experience the workplace differently when they take maternity leave and are pressured to resume work soon.
Little wonder that some women are left with no choice except to give up their jobs to care for children or family members. Experts say this and other issues have resulted in a vast, underutilized pool of female talent. Various corporates are beginning to consider this development as quite unwelcome—especially since there’s an estimated talent shortage of five million people in coming few years. Imagine what could happen if a million Indian career women who have left the workplace over the last 10 years returned? This then is an opportune time to invest in devising ways and initiatives to make every woman’s professional life so much more fulfilling and easier.
Zeroing in on Career Enablers
What are the key drivers of career strength for a woman? Which are the top three factors the presence of which will help women reconsider their decision to quit? What is the role of an organization in enabling a woman’s career?
A total of 448 women aged 28-45 answered such questions as part of the AVATAR Career Creators’ conducted focus group discussions on career enablers for women and impact of flexi-working schedules. AVATAR Career Creator is a Chennai-based talent strategy consulting firm founded by Saundarya Rajesh in 2000 with a focus on creating sustainable careers for women.
All the randomly selected female participants had prior work experience and were either on a career break or pursuing careers currently. Authored by Saundarya Rajesh and Karthik Ekambaram and released in March 2012, the nationwide study, titled Viewport 2012 identified nine career enablers for Indian working women:
- Organization-led Skill Building Program
- Flexible Working arrangement
- Inspiring Peer Group
- Self-initiated Skill Building Programs
- Home-based Family Care-giver
- Home-based Non-Family Member Care-giver
- Day Care Service
- Organization-provided Crèche
The report highlighted that all the enablers leading to better work-life integration and more productive careers can be subsumed under four major categories:
- Growth enabler
- Satisfaction enabler
- Career sustainability enabler
- Work-life balance enabler
In an interview with HR Magazine in June 2012, Rajesh noted that women began entering the workplace in the 1990s and “conflicts began to appear” as the rate of women working “slowly grew to 28 percent.”
Interestingly all the participants in Avatar’s survey unanimously rated flexibility, mentoring and sponsorship and organization-led training initiatives as the top three career enablers. The successful implementation of these career enablers at an organizational level can not only transform the career graphs of working women in India but also fulfill the talent requirements of corporate India. The value of these enablers cannot be overemphasized both in terms of career progression and career resurrection of Indian women professionals.
Sanjay Joshi is an Editor at SHRM. Republished with permission. Copyright ©2012 SHRM India All rights reserved.