Anupama Kapoor and Gopika Kaul are helping women return to work with Reboot, a mentoring and capacity building career community.
Women take a break from the workplace for various reasons. It could be to raise children, to study further, a burnout, or simply a sabbatical to weigh future options.
Whatever the reasons may be, when a woman goes on a career break and wishes to restart after a period, her resume usually goes to the bottom of the pile. Being absent from the scene for a while usually means feeling like a misfit, having missed out on important updates and changes in the sector.
But women can take heart! You can restart, revive, and reboot your career and continue participating in the workforce as before.
Among many organisations helping women return to work is Reboot, a mentoring and capacity building career community of returning women professionals. The vision is to upskill women and equip them to sustain their return to work.
Anupama Kapoor, the Founder of Reboot, is a Women’s Workforce Participating SME and a Gender Intelligence facilitator with a long and illustrious corporate career across diverse geographies and cultures.
Co-founder Gopika Kaul is a content and digital media professional with over two decades of experience across diverse sectors in Hong Kong, the US, and India.
The work-life struggle
Anupama recalls that when she became a mother, she personally experienced the struggle women usually go through while trying to manage a healthy balance between their aspirations - as a mother and those of a career professional.
“Sustaining equilibrium between the familial, societal, and professional expectations was a constant challenge. Trying to keep up with this gave me deeper insight into the dilemma that every woman working outside the home faces. It was on this motherhood journey in the corporate world that the idea of Reboot took shape. I met an ever-growing number of women who wanted to start, wanted to leave, wanted to re-join, constantly juggling, always guilt-ridden and at battle with their ‘parallel lives’. Launching Reboot in 2013 was the logical conclusion,” she says.
As a passionate gender rights activist, the pain one feels, she says is a broad spectrum. “There are many issues that one has to deal with as a woman. But you can’t solve them all and if you were to make an Ishikawa diagram, you would find that all roads to gender equality come via economic empowerment and giving women an agency.”
When Gopika quit her job, she didn’t think it would turn into an extended break, but it did. “The flexibility I needed, to balance my personal and professional life, was really seen as a limitation by most organisations. I was told by my then boss that making my role flexible would “set the wrong precedent”.
“Like Anupama, I too made a (loaded) choice. I took up freelance assignments, ones that allowed me to work from home, but I could not return to a full-time job till much, much later. And, as I spent many years thinking about the road not taken, I thought about the choices that women must make; about the lack of avenues for those who take breaks or need flexibility.
Not surprisingly, she met a lot of women - mothers like her, who were in similar situations. “They were bright, young women who had left great careers to be at home and were finding it hard to make their way back. Many of them had had decade-long careers but were unable to return to work because they could not find the opportunities they needed. It made me wonder why organisations hadn’t found ways of utilising this amazing talent. I knew that something needed to be done - there had to be more solutions for returning women,” she says.
Meanwhile, Anupama had already created Reboot and joining her seemed the natural thing to do for Gopika.
Getting Reboot-ers on board
Anupama calls herself the original Reboot-er, having taken three breaks from work, because of the famous 3 Ms. “Mobility, Maternity and the third M being Medical, in my case,” she says.
“When I started Reboot in 2013, it was my moment of being the change I wanted to see. I leveraged social media and technology in a big way to engage and bring together a community of women, who are there to help other women like them. This was a critical strategy, as digital media can create a brand for you, at no cost, other than the investment of time. So, in that sense, Reboot Community was born on social media. We also collaborated with like-minded women’s communities working on different women’s issues - ranging from sexual harassment to livelihoods and education. The concerted effort of partnerships helped consolidate Reboot’s efforts and was a game changer to create visibility and the Reboot brand.”
How to Reboot
Reboot is a social enterprise that began as a community for women on a career break, but now women from all walks of life - looking to find creative ways to achieve work-life balance and become independent - are a part of the community. This includes emerging entrepreneurs.
This month, they are launching RebootHer, – a carefully curated, mentoring and blended learning programme, designed to enable women to make a confident, efficient, and sustainable return to work.
The Womenomics programme focuses on women workforce participation research, consulting, and advisory services. The consulting work is about impacting the ecosystem – help attract, develop, and retain a diverse workforce, enabling organisations to become “an employer of choice” for women.
On International Women’s Day, it also launched Equal Half, a pioneering platform to engage men in conversations on gender equality.
Reboot also works with academia and corporates to truly create an enabling ecosystem for women. In 2016-17, Anupama worked with one of India’s top 5 business schools to create India’s first full-time MBA for returning women.
Like most startups, Anupama believes the journey has been a mix of challenges and successes.
“Surprisingly, if we were to name one tough moment, it was (and continues to be) building a website – one that reflects our work and caters to our growing requirements. Funding this has been a challenge! For us, success comes in the form of the change that we bring about in the lives of our community. When we receive testimonials from women who have rebooted their professional lives, we see that as our biggest success,” she says.
Currently bootstrapped, Reboot was founded with the founders’ savings and family. It is currently working on a self-reliant business model and is looking to acquire funds on the path to growth.
Rebooting for the future
“Our mission is to enhance Women's Workforce Participation through our mentoring, capacity building programmes, and learning interventions. Keeping that in our line of sight, our vision is to grow the Reboot Community to become an Asia-wide community of women leaders of tomorrow and launch RebootHer in other Asian countries too,” Anupama says.
Pick up your career where you left off, achieve that elusive work-life balance, or simply get better at what you do. Reboot your life and career the way you want it – that’s what this community wants you to do!