How do you pave the way for women's participation in the era of hybrid & remote work? Find out at the IWWAGE-Zoom roundtable

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Women accounted for 23 percent of job losses between March 2020 and March 2021, despite making up only 10 percent of the total available jobs, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). Over the years, the female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) in India has shown a steady decline, with the pandemic further compounding the problem. In fact, more women have lost jobs over the last two years. The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns actually accelerated the fall in women’s participation in the labour force.

However, one of the major effects of the pandemic has been a rise in remote and hybrid working models, which have gained mass acceptance as workplaces and businesses went online over the course of the pandemic. As economies across the globe prepare for the future of work and adjust to the new normal, it is important to bring in a diversity lens to the dialogue to foster workplace equity and inclusion, while informing the agenda to advance women’s economic empowerment.

To help shape policies for an inclusive future of work, the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) and Zoom are hosting a roundtable themed 'Hybrid & Remote Work Models and Women's Participation in the Economy' on December 20, 2021, from 4 PM to 5:30 PM.

Discussing all things work, for women

IWWAGE is a centre at LEAD, under the strategic oversight of Krea University. With seed funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, IWWAGE is working on the critical agenda of advancing women and girls’ economic empowerment in India.

With Zoom being at the helm of the remote work revolution, IWWAGE is partnering with them to host a first-of-its-kind roundtable, to understand the impact remote work has had on women engaged in diverse sectors and forms of employment, and how we can enable flexible working solutions for them.

"We hope to explore the opportunities that exist for women in the organised and unorganised sector through remote working solutions, and how the private and public sector can reduce the barriers that women face in accessing remote work. The conversation will not only explore the labour market policies that can support flexible work arrangements but also help women advance at the workplace and in the economy," says Kanika Jha Kingra, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager, IWWAGE at Lead.

Iravati Damle, Director, Government Affairs, India, Zoom Video Communications, Inc adds, "The hybrid environment has played a pivotal role in addressing several barriers faced by women and the substantial economic and skill dividends that they bring can no longer be ignored. Today, collaboration platforms enable hybrid work formats and create opportunities for women in ways never imagined before. The time to accelerate the journey towards a more diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce is now. The roundtable will discuss the role technology has played and can continue to play in fostering an equitable workforce."

Perspectives from the field

The roundtable will bring in speakers with diverse perspectives, including Rituparna Chakraborty, Co-founder and EVP at TeamLease Services; Sona Mitra, Principal Economist, IWWAGE at Lead; Angela D’Souza, Program Manager, ITI Ecosystem, Youth Programs at Quest Alliance; Salonie Muralidhara Hiryur, Senior Coordinator at SEWA Cooperative Federation; Iravati Damle, Director, Government Affairs at Zoom Video Communications, Inc; and Kanika Jha Kingra, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager, IWWAGE at Lead.

The conversation will revolve around:

  • How remote and hybrid working models can help women participate in the labour force and find alternative ways to generate livelihoods
  • The role of public and private sectors in enabling remote working solutions to enable women to manage their caregiving responsibilities and ensure they stay in the workforce at the same time
  • The impact of technology on the future of work, and the need to overcome the digital divide to expand opportunities for work for semi-skilled and skilled urban and rural poor women.
  • Policy levers and HR best practices to minimise constraints to enable labour force participation, especially for women

Prepping women for the future of work

In March 2021, Zoom commissioned Qualtrics Research to conduct a survey that asked more than 7,600 people from around the world which virtual activities from the COVID-19 era they’d like to see continue. Overall, a large majority of those surveyed say that even after COVID-19 concerns subside, they will continue to use video communications for many aspects of their lives. Here are some of the key learnings:

  • About two-thirds of those who used video for business want a mix of virtual and in-person business environments in the future, citing better work-life balance and added flexibility.
  • While half of those who said they used video for healthcare or telehealth appointments want that option moving forward (especially in the United States), many respondents said they preferred in-person visits because of the doctor-patient connection they provide.
  • About half of those who had used video for education during the pandemic plan some combination of in-person and virtual classes going forward. But some countries were more adamant (Germany and the UK) about in-person education than others.
  • Although celebrations, worldwide, were high on the list of virtual activities respondents enjoyed during the months of COVID-19, few are keen to continue virtual-only celebrations like birthdays, holidays, and weddings. In fact, in-person was by far the preferred option for this use case.
  • A large majority of respondents believed that video communications were valuable for staving off feelings of loneliness and isolation during the pandemic.

Out of the participants from India:

  • 92% of respondents agreed that video calling gives everyone an opportunity to participate
  • 92% of respondents also agreed that virtual and remote activities make them feel more connected with others
  • 83% of Indians agreed that everything will continue to have a virtual element post-pandemic

Whether you're a woman preparing to enter the labour market, or taking a break, or facing barriers in your work life, or you're a policymaker or influencer in the women's labour market, come join the discussion and know how you can best prepare women for the future of work in India.

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