Embracing GirlPower: How to Attract and Keep More Women in the Workforce
The status of women is improving in public and private spheres, yet there are many challenges in getting jobs, and also in sustaining in the job. If you look at the statistics, it gives a true picture of this. A recent World Bank study on the Indian workforce shows that only 27% of Indian women are currently in the labour force.
In over two decades preceding 2013, female labour force participation in India fell from 34.8% to 27%, according to the April 2017 report. At roughly the same time that women were quitting jobs, an additional 24.3 million men went to work, it said. These numbers speak for themselves.
However, it’s not only about workplace stats but also about the challenge for a progressing career woman which are all too real. I’m certain you have all seen Anand Mahindra’s heartwarming post about working women recently.
They have to make the tough choice of taking time off to raise a family, being paid lower than their male colleagues, at times, are often passed up for a promotion as a result of stepping back in their career, struggling to juggle work and family life, in comparison to men. After all that, they have to constantly fight being typecast as either too nice, or too aggressive.
Why are women dropping out of work? And how can we make it better?
It is apt to quote Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, who famously pointed out in her best-selling book Lean in, that for women to have more power in the workspace, the first step is to ensure there are more women in leadership roles giving a strong and powerful voice to their needs and concerns. And second, to encourage women to overcome their own ‘internal obstacles’ to achieving success.
One of the primary reasons women drop out is to raise children and simultaneously care for ageing parents. For many women, unfortunately, mid-career is when such crucial life decisions start to play a larger role compared to the earlier years.
As the social dynamics work, men too face similar decisions, but women often tend to take the forefront as far as taking on family responsibilities. Therefore, it is essential that women be given the right kind of support to make the choice to juggle their career along with family.
Once a woman takes a break, invariably she has to factor in a pay cut if she resumes or has to choose a role which is convenient to her situation. If the incentives are encouraging, it helps to take a more holistic decision.
A friend of mine took a year’s sabbatical from work and thereon decided to quit, pursuing her independent career, and also started a family. After a five year gap, when she decided to resume full-time work, no company was willing to give her a salary hike she should have automatically got, and eventually, she had to accept lower pay and more responsibilities.
The hassle of being judged for requesting flexible work hours or remote working access is still not seen in a positive way. Women, or for that matter, men should have these options, and in such cases, the quality of their work, and the timeframe needs to decide their performance.
Sandberg says women lower their own expectations of what one can achieve because of social conditioning. Personal motivation is very complex and is influenced strongly by our environment, peers, qualifications, networking, social circle, the biases around gender roles and what is expected of us, professional roles etc. One way to beat this tendency is to work extra hard and not give any room for wagging tongues and pointing fingers. The choice is very tough, and a very personal one, but for a woman who wants a strong career it’s also extremely rewarding and satisfying.
At the same time, if an organisation wants to ensure future business success and innovation, action needs to be taken. There are ways organisations can enable women to advance in their careers.
Paid family leave and child care are extremely simple ways to clear the path for women. A change in mindset that this will not impact the performance and encouraging this is a good place to begin.
Being or having a #girlboss:
Role models are important. The more a company lauds a woman, and her transformational leadership, the more positive impact and change it will have on a company’s employment policies.
Truly effective leaders don’t instruct but inspire. ‘Girlbosses’, who seem to have it all, and do it all, are the key to encourage more women into the workforce and to stay despite odds. A leadership style is where a person leads by establishing themselves as a role model, by empowering and mentoring their followers, being innovative and by encouraging their subordinates to reach their fullest potential.
It begins with and ends with perception. Women in positions of authority are often viewed skeptically. A change in the mindset and also following a more democratic style of leadership will help change this.
This should be the case for all workers regardless of gender, right? Everybody, more so women, would thrive in an environment where their work is valued, and colleagues whom they can connect with.
Women and men approach work differently. We reiterate here, from various studies and reports, we have seen that more women than men would consider their personal and family responsibilities while deciding about their career path. They often struggle to find a balance between doing meaningful work and fulfilling personal duties.
Along with meaningful work, salary compensation is another big driver. Organisations must move to a more equal salary for employees, which will motivate them to feel equally valued in the workplace.
Here are 4 signs of a woman-friendly workplace, most of which are even gender-neutral:
1. Attitude and behavior
A woman-friendly workplace does not make employees feel guilty when they take leave or when they opt to work from home. Both men and women may choose to apply for leave to take care of domestic responsibilities such as child-care or parent without getting questioned too much or being made to feel awkward or being treated with suspicion or doubt.
2. Safety at work
Workplaces which are women-friendly give safety prime importance. From working hours to being considerate when employees end up travelling late, these workplaces foster a caring culture towards colleagues. Such organisations also practice enabling policies.
3. Policies and processes
Women-friendly workplaces have robust polices to deal with issues such as bullying, harassment and come out clear about the code of conduct expected from employees across levels. They take the support of technology to develop processes that enable flexibility in terms of both time and space thus driving a performance driven culture.
4. Engagement initiatives
Women-friendly organisations integrate the needs of the organisation with workforce demographics. One-size fits all approach is a bad engagement practice. Based on age groups, gender ratios and cultural aspects, progressive companies develop specific skills at entry level, organise programmes for gender sensitization, create back-to-work programmes for young mothers and have women in senior roles who are role models for young talent.
The final word:
To attract more women talent at all levels – entry-level, mid-level and leadership should be ensured by the organisation. Equal, if not more number of women enter the workforce at the entry-level. A company should consciously hire women at the mid-level, and encourage, mould and promote the deserving women into leadership roles. Organisations should also consciously hire women in top positions, to lead by example, and to bring diversity into the decision-making pool.
Also, they should put in place proper policies to allow women to re-enter the workforce with a sense of entitlement, and offer the appropriate tools and environment for them to feel supported, inspired and motivated to make a difference to the company.
As the retention and career movement of women increase, it will ultimately end in positive results for the company and its business.
Revisit your human resource plan; make a conscious effort to improve the gender balance in your organisation to attract and keep more women in the workforce. To know more about how we can help you improve the gender balance in your workplace, write to us – firstname.lastname@example.org
Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.