Shachi Irde, Executive Director, Catalyst, India lists a few things that need to change for working women
Investing in development and upskilling: With the talent shortage looming large in India, corporates need to look at women who are willing to come back to work and invest in developing and upskilling them, if required. It's not just hiring, but developing and retaining that is important.
Raise your hand: Women need to raise their hands and make their voices heard, not only within the organisation but also within their families. Working is not only about earning, but satisfaction. If some organisations can offer up to 6-months maternity leave or a one-year sabbatical, why not all.
Flexibility as needed across the board, is essential. Culture change makes it necessary for organisations to look at talent differently. Men also need to be given flexible options; and not looked at with suspicion. If men are encouraged to take on more responsibility at home, women will benefit.
Consciousness: Unconsciously we tend to look for people who are just like us. It's generally, 'Think Leader. Think Male'. We need men in power looking out for the best interests of women, increasing the number of women on their teams and consciously promoting deserving women. They need to ask, “Have I nominated just men in my team or given everyone equal opportunity. Am I ensuring that there is no bias or am I taking decisions on behalf of a woman, without giving her a chance to prove herself”.
Safety is a concern for all employees, irrespective of gender. All human life is valuable. Men are no longer the only bread winners. Often, women are not clear about how to say no and that is when harassment occurs. Organisations need to ensure that complaints can be raised without fear of retaliation. Committees that look into the prevention of sexual harassment may be overwhelmed with complaints in the initial days, but eventually everything will settle down.
Role Models: Chanda Kochhar and Sheryl Sandberg have broken the norms. Not every woman may want to rise so high, but immediate goals to rise a level or two above your current position are perfectly achievable. The perception that the ROI on men is high and the ROI on women is low, needs to change and organisations need to promote inclusion, factoring in the future plans of both men and women.
Pay Gap: While the pay gap between men and women is quite stark; there is not much conversation around it. Studies show that even if high potential women in the technology sector in India, begin their careers with similar positions, responsibilities and salaries as men, after 12 years their income is around Rs. 3,00,000 less than their male counterparts. Organisations should ensure equitable pay to people of the same calibre.
Opportunity: The numbers do not look great for women on boards. And while recent legislations have mandated at least one women on board for organisations of a certain size, organisations that need to get women on board must look beyond board experience for women, who are ready to join their boards, and give then a fair chance.
Mentoring and Sponsorship: Women tend to have mentors just a few levels higher than them; whereas men tend to have mentors who are far more senior, which works better. A woman needs a sponsor, who will support her at the senior level forums that he or she attends and use the opportunity to talk about their woman proteges. A sponsor helps you get noticed. This high visibility promotes recognition; then it is up you to be more productive and prove yourself.
Choice: Freezing eggs is not really a solution to manage a career and home. At the age of 50, a woman could retire or have a more demanding career. Freedom comes from the availability of choice, the choice to be a stay-at-home mum (or dad), or work flexi-hours and to know that you will still be treated equally.