In India, women carry a lot of social responsibilities. According to the CTI (Commission for Technology & Innovation) report, close to 36% of women quit their jobs to raise children, look after their elderly parents, and meet other personal demands. Though 91% of these women want to return to work within a year, only a few are able to secure full-time jobs at respectable positions in their previous jobs. Their opportunities get limited, and it is a huge waste of talent and investment in education and training of women if they are not pursuing careers. When only 5% of these women make it to top level, companies have to cope with gender/diversity issues at middle and senior level.
Seeing the lack of women leadership in the technology industry, Anshu Singh and Jyotika Singh, a tech duo, decided to find a way to help these experienced women professionals regain leadership positions. They bootstrapped relauncHER in March 2013 as an initiative and a professional returner program for women professionals with the aim of helping them with their non-linear career needs.
The business focuses exclusively on experienced and highly-skilled women professionals, with a minimum of three years of work experience, and on a career break. Professionals have to register on the website for the kind of service they wish to enrol for, by filling up a detailed form. Post registration, the candidate’s profile is evaluated and a detailed resume is asked for, followed by a telephonic conversation to evaluate the aptitude and soft skills of candidate. Once the professionals are selected, they are assigned a relauncHER associate program, depending upon the domain and location. After a thorough scrutiny, if the profile fits in the requirements of the employers, the resume is forwarded to the company. The candidate is counselled on what to expect from companies and the process, though the technical evaluation is performed by the company as per their hiring process. If a candidate’s profile or interview skills needs more work, they are offered to join ‘enricHER’ to train and come at par with the talent pool today. At all points, the candidate is kept informed about the progress and communication with the employer. In the Returner Program shortlisted candidates’ first go through the job training and then hired permanently after evaluation.
relanuncHER offers two kinds of value added services. The first is enricHER, which helps women professionals enhance their resumes, LinkedIn profiles, and master the art of giving interviews. The professionals are also recommended appropriate training, based on their profile and requirement. In this program, candidates are hired full-time from the beginning.
The second is ‘Freelancer and SelfstartHER’ which helps professionals create online presence and support to establish them as entrepreneurs. “We provide highly skilled and trained women professionals to the established employers, who want to promote women inclusion at mid-senior level and leadership roles; and to startups, who need experienced talent but find it difficult to attract candidates,” says Jyotika. She adds, “Though placement is our final objective for the professional to make this program a success, relauncHER is NOT a recruiting firm. It’s an initiative aimed at making a difference in women ratios in leadership and influential positions in the corporate world. So, any comparison with a placement agency or consultancy will not be logical.”
Their program offers companies a flexible non-binding way to access the experienced workforce and to consider the possibility of retention after evaluation. The companies get a readily available highly skilled, pre-screened, untapped women talent pool that is fit for mid-senior level and leadership roles. This really balances the men-women ratio within the organisation. In case the aspirants are not retained by the organisation even after evaluation, the chances to return are unlimited with appropriate trainings, freelancer options, approach, attitude and so on.
“We started with the IT domain and are gradually expanding to other domains now. Our revenue model is straight-forward. We charge the companies a recruiter’s fee for each candidate placed, and candidates pay us for any value-adding services they avail, while registration and submission of profile and currently free for the candidates,” says Anshu.
During several conversations with professionals, it came out that it is not possible for all women to return to work full-time, but they have a keen desire to utilise their education and experiences in some way or the other. A big step in this move is to empower women in realising their ambitions using their talent and skills, connecting them to the right entrepreneurs, and helping them increase their digital and social media presence. Exclusive partnerships with life coaches and programs exclusively aimed for women entrepreneurs are a big step.
“We are a fully digital office and we work from our home offices,” says Jyotika. “I am a full-time team member, whereas Anshu works part-time due to family constraints. Our business associates choose their own working hours, duration and location. In the last 5 months, we have successfully completed our pilot with midsized IT companies and startups in NCR and Pune. A few big IT names have also shown their interest in our program and we are in partnership talks with them,” she informs.
“Biases and stigmas related to career breaks are our biggest challenge, as also convincing the employers to open returner positions for women. The expertise and the potential which women can bring to work and how this can benefit the employers in the long-term is something we have to tackle slowly,” feels Anshu. Going forward, he says, vigorous efforts will be made to create a corporate culture where women are able to take a break for vital life scenarios without the stress of getting penalised, and are enabled to come back easily when they are ready. “The mission is to remove the social stigmas and biases against career gaps and to increase women ratios in mid management and leadership roles.”