With Tata Sons recently unveiling their enviable maternity benefits policy, the conversation around attracting and retaining women employees has resurfaced. In a country like ours where women are encouraged to have jobs, but are looked down upon and judged the moment they aspire for a fulfilling career, such a policy comes as a welcome change. The company’s women-centric policy includes paid maternity leave of seven months (the longest period offered in the country as yet), 18 months of half pay - and half flexible work schedules among other benefits.
The reason why there is such a hue-and-cry around this policy is evident if you take a look at some of the data pertaining to working women in India. According to Grant Thornton’s International Business Report 2015, India ranks a dismal third last in the world, with only 15 per cent of senior business leadership roles being filled in by women. Another 2015 study by Deloitte, titled Women In The Boardroom: A Global Perspective, found that women in India held only 7.7 per cent of board seats and 2.7 per cent of board chairs. Furthermore, an April 2015 BBC report stated that of Delhi’s 1000 working women, only 18 to 34 per cent continued working after having a child. The story was pretty much the same in a report by Catalyst which said that nearly 48 per cent of Indian women dropped out of jobs before they reached mid-career levels.
These numbers may not startle Indians as we are raised in a culture where marriage is seen as the sole purpose of a woman’s life. However, Tata Sons is not the only company to have come forward with women-friendly policies. Last year Flipkart, too, came out with a six-month paid maternity policy, and other companies like General Electric Co. India, HCL Technologies, SAP Labs India and TeamLease have followed suit with initiatives like paid child care facilities, guilt-free parenting counselling, increased referral bonuses and even a highly innovative Bring Your Mother-In-Law To Work Day programme.
However big or small your organisation may be, you, too, can make a few tweaks to ensure that your employees, especially women, are happy and content at the workplace. Here are a few tips for companies on how to attract and retain their valuable women employees.
Have more women leaders
The first thing that gives a woman confidence at her workplace is having women leaders to look up to. This also indicates that the company offers them an environment conducive to scale the corporate ladder. It would be more beneficial if women leaders took on the role of mentors in mentorship programmes that are already at work in certain companies.
Create a sexism-free work culture
Every workplace must offer a safe and secure environment for employees that help them grow personally and professionally. But it is a sad reality that this is not always true in India. Some of the biggest companies here lack sexual harassment cells and policies against discrimination at the workplace. Create a culture that does away with sexism at work by educating your employees about ‘unconscious biases’ and ‘benevolent sexism’. These powerful videos (by Google and HuffPost) could be a good starting point in this direction.
Pay men and women equally
When you hire talented women, understand that they put in the same amount of hard work and time as the men and acknowledge that with equal pay. Offer them equal opportunities and trust them with responsibilities similar to what their male counterparts are given to foster increased confidence and professional growth.
Have a transparent performance evaluation policy
Make it clear to all employees how they are going to be evaluated and about the requirements to be met to make career advancements. It is commonly seen that most organisations promote men on potential and women only on measurable and proven performance. Check your talent management systems and do away with such biases.
Offer flexible work schedules
Many Indian companies already offer flexible schedules to their employees, but most often they turn out to be only the freedom to choose their shifts. True flexibility means allowing your employees to adjust their work schedules to maintain a healthy work-life balance without being penalised. As long as they turn in their work on time and are producing results, their physical absence from office shouldn’t be a concern. Having flexible schedules end up in happier, more satisfied and extremely productive employees.
Good intentions, alone, are not enough to make women employees want to work for your company. Treat them well, provide them opportunities for professional development and create a culture that values their talents and respects them as individuals.