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First let me take a selfie! (with daughter)

and , July 26, 2015, 0 Comments

‘#Selfie’ – the pop number by The Chain smokers can probably be the anthem of newest social media trend in India. When Sunil Jaglan, a sarpanch in Haryana’s Bibipur village posted a selfie with his daughter on a social media platform, little did he know that his ‘Selfie With Daughter’ initiative will become such a huge hit.PM Modi himself backing this initiative is all that it needed to go viral on most social media platforms across the world.

Women account for 40% of the global workforce today. As per World Bank, nearly half of the global productive potential of the female population remains unutilized (compared to 22% for men). Aguirre and others (2012) argue that this untapped potential lies mostly in emerging and developing nations like India. They estimate that of the 865 million women worldwide who have the potential to contribute more fully to their national economies, 812 million live in emerging and developing nations.

According to the ILO, women account for around 25% of India’s total labor force. The overall female labor force participation rate, defined as percentage of female population ages 15 and above that are economically active, has fallen from 37% in 2005 to 27% in 2013. This number is quite low compared to other emerging economies like China (64%), Indonesia (51%), South Africa (45%) and Brazil (59%). In fact India ranks 11th from the bottom out of 131 countries in this regard. According to a study by Booz & Co., India’s GDP could increase by around 27% by 2020 if female employment rates match those of men.

Source: World Bank

An IFC study points out that increased gender diversity can drive up productivity and innovation in an organization. Women can offer new perspectives, better team dynamics, decision making and improved relations with the society and community.

Being an equal opportunity employer just at the recruitment stage is not enough, retention and promotion of women with the organization is crucial. Here are a few ideas and programs, to retain women employees.

Continuous relationship– Most women leave their jobs post marriage or maternity unable to balance their personal and professional life. The biggest void for companies thus comes at middle management level. ICICI bank encourages women who wish to take a break for few years to continue their association with the company by taking smaller projects/roles. These women are more likely to re-join post their break.

Similarly, Infosys started a program called Women’s Inclusivity Network (IWIN) to tap female talent at the middle management level. This gender diversity practice includes policies/programs like peer counseling, Pregnacare, onsite doctors, one-year child care sabbatical, dedicated helpline service for women, near site day centers, travel support and nursing stations. Infosys claims that they were able to retain 89% of their women employees who went for maternity leave.

Similarly Flipkart, an online retailer, recently offered an attractive maternity package to retain and attract women employees.

Companies could also think of offering part time management programs or special courses for women employees post maternity so that they can constantly upgrade themselves. Moreover promotion and other performance related benefits should be kept intact even during maternity.

Flexi-fixed work timings – Most women at senior positions attribute their work life balance to the support structure offered by the organization. For many the nature of their job may not allow them to work from home however, a workaround this problem is possible. Companies can map their work hours as per the requirements of working mothers and have a core time say 10am to 3pm in which the employee is supposed to be present in the office for critical matters. Rest of the day, could be work from home.

Family support beyond day care – US based Pharma Company Elli Lilly has been recognized and awarded amongst the best companies for working mothers for the past two decades. Women account for almost 50% of their workforce and 29% of their board of directors which is better than many Fortune 500 companies (average 17%)

Elli Lilly provides child care facilities beyond day care centers like after school programs (camps, tuitions and other activities) for their women employee’s children. They have in-house child care centers and have also negotiated with day care centers near work at subsidized rates. This could be an excellent example for Indian companies to follow. Such centers could be wholly or partially funded by the organization.

Another rather unique initiative is undertaken by a not-for-profit organization called Mobile Crèches which provides mobile childcare services to children of construction workers. These mobile crèches are set up at construction sites in Mumbai to take care of infants and even older children to help them with admissions in schools.

Mentor mentee mapping- While many companies have started mentor-mentee pairings to guide young management trainees, it would also be a good idea to pair young women employees with senior women leaders as their mentor. This would help provide junior women managers some visibility regarding senior leadership roles.

Women safety – The UN Convention of the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) recognizes sexual harassment as a form of gender discrimination. This is one of the most serious issues facing working women in India today. Women generally don’t prefer working late hours as late night travel is considered unsafe in many metro cities in India. Most companies are now offering telecommuting, safe travel facilities beyond office hours and are also taking reporting of sexual abuse at workplace seriously. A FICCI report on women safety at workplace focuses on four key areas- physical, environmental, organizational and educational. They recommend screening/police verification of all casual staff, guards and drivers, 24*7 operational CCTV in premises, GPS-based monitoring of cabs, separate and secure toilets for women, self-defense trainings, well-lit work areas and emergency 24*7 helpline numbers as mandatory requirements.

Campaigns like Selfie With Daughter and “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao”, can only do so much in addressing the issue of women empowerment. Enabling women to make an equal contribution to the family and society as men will go a long way in addressing the same. Hence, the government should set a target of increasing female labour force participation to the international norm of 50-60% percent in the next decade. Only then will India’s growth story be truly inclusive.