How PayPal is giving women a break after a break


PayPal's attempt to upgrade the tech skills of women on a break and make them ready for work through its Recharge programme. 

The physical and physiological changes that a woman's body undergoes after delivery are not easy to handle. Add to it, caring full time for a baby, breastfeeding, and getting into a routine. If one is facing postpartum depression, then the challenges increase manifold. Bottom line: Being a new mother is not easy. 

Hormones play their role too. According to research, after childbirth, hormones such as oxytocin are at work and surge during breastfeeding accentuating the bond between the mother and the child. Because mother and child share a special connect, it is often more difficult for mothers to leave their children especially when they are very small. This is often one of the key reasons why most mothers don’t want to get back to work immediately after childbirth.

What keeps the women away? 

But what keeps women away when they are ready to get back after a year or two of childbirth? Why is it that so many companies and startups such as Target, PayPal, Sheroes and others, are working to get women back to work? What are the challenges women face in getting back to their careers?

Jayanthi Vaidyanathan, Director, Human Resources, PayPal

The challenges range from lack of confidence to deal with a workplace that has changed considerably to new skills to technologies and processes that have come to define workplaces. Then there is the challenge of managing a job and balancing it with duties at home. Moreover, many women feel outdated, redundant, and under-confident.

Often the workplace and leadership team is not sensitised to welcome a team member back to the fold. Support from a manager or a boss, colleagues and families helps women manage better.

Then there are the challenges of upgrading one's skills. Often that becomes a big roadblock. So how do women overcome these challenges to ensure a smooth return to work, advance their careers, contribute to the economy, and become role models and leaders?

A lot of the onus is on women – to build that confidence and not undermine themselves, which is easier said than done. Sheryl Sandberg in her book LeanIn talks about how women undermine themselves when it comes to salary negotiations or working to get that corner office.

Women need to devote time to upgrade their skills, read and learn, and make it a point to not use household responsibilities as a distraction for not being able to spend time and energy on things that matter to them.

Bringing back to work the PayPal way 

Other than the support of the family and colleagues, the workplace plays an important role in welcoming and retaining women talent. A few organisations and companies have ensured that they give the best to women in terms of facilities like a creche, flexible work timings, work from home option, etc. But how do we still prepare women to face the challenges that the workplace throws up?

On such endeavour is the Recharge programme launched by PayPal. In its second year now, the programme is focused on bringing women back to work, helping them get up to speed with the new developments in their sector, and then make way for as many of them as possible within the company itself.

Jayanthi Vaidyanathan, Director of Human Resources at PayPal, says of the programme:

“We encourage women technologists who have taken a career break to feel equipped to return to the workforce. At the end of the programme, the participants may have the opportunity to work with us at PayPal to build next-generation payments.” 

Out of the applications that come in, the first round of shortlisting is generic and these women are then invited to attend an event after which a small group is selected for an intensive boot camp. "In the three-week-long boot camp, women go through a rigorous programme and are brought up to speed with the latest in the tech world," says Guru Bhat, GM Technology and Head of Engineering, PayPal. 

Guru Bhat, GM Technology and Head of Engineering, PayPal

Last year, the Recharge programme had 30 women in the boot camp out of which 11 were hired. This year, the aim is to get 50 women (30 from Chennai and 20 from Bengaluru). Says Guru,

"This year we have no cap and will try and take in as many women as possible. Meanwhile, all the other women who do not make the cut are still ready to get back to work and we do hope that they will find it easier to find jobs after the boot camp since they are up to date with all the technology."

The roles include risk analyst, software development engineer, software development-test engineer, and software development manager. It is open to women who have been on a break for about a year and a half or less with at least five years of work experience in analytics, product development, etc., with some background in test automation, risk analysis, Java, etc.

The Recharge programme has been Jayanthi's brain child and given its success in India, it has been started in the PayPal headquarters in the US too.

Once the women are hired, they are given some hand holding initially as well as fast-track coaching to keep them up to speed. And their pay scale is the same as anyone else in the bracket, says Jayanthi.

According to Guru, the Recharge programme is independent of PayPal's CSR activity and the idea is to help as many women as possible to get back to work. "All PayPal wants to do is to maintain a healthy system and enable more women to enter the workforce. Through Recharge we want to usher in a culture change in both PayPal and in the tech industry at large by removing the stigma attached to a career break."

Driving diversity and inclusion is one of the primary missions for many organisations including PayPal. The Recharge initiative helps to increase the number of women in the organisation besides furthering the company's diversity and inclusion mission.

There is no doubt that more and more women need to get back to work. If organisations drive programmes that will help women feel powered to join the workforce, then diversity and inclusion would not be such lofty sounding ideals and the economy will benefit too with more women contributing to the GDP.


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