Employing women is no longer seen as mere corporate social responsibility. It isn't tokenism, as Indra Nooyi, CEO, Pepsico, recently said, but realisation that employers cannot afford to ignore the talent pool women have created. But the bad news is, even now, getting them to stay on is difficult.
“There is a definite need for women to sustain in their careers,” says Rajalakshmi, Development Commissioner, IT / ITES SEZs, Karnataka. Employers are re-thinking strategies. Various amenities are being provided by the Government, she says. “Women need to take advantage of these facilities,” says Rajalakshmi.
Sunita Cherian, GM-Talent Engagement and Development, Wipro Technologies, says the company slots attrition into three stages — up to five years of experience, five to 10, and above. For the first group, Wipro provides learning opportunity, so they feel inspired to continue. At the next rung, it’s extended maternity leave, work-from-home option, crèche facilities etc. The third is the empowerment stage, where they are groomed to take up higher responsibilities.
“Women-friendly initiatives are being tried out by most companies, it is up to women to use, not misuse them,” says Rama Sivaraman, EVP and global head, Quality, Polaris.
It's ironical, says Rajani Seshadri, VP, Head-Europe Telecoms, Tata Consultancy Services, that we talk of fulfilment, and then stay back. “Women join work after completing education, get married and start a family, which doesn’t allow them accumulated leave. Now they postpone pregnancy by at least five years, and can take leave up to six months.” But does that not affect performance appraisals? “Yes, but project leaders have been trained to follow new criteria that allow pregnancy and bringing up children or care for the elderly, and women can take advantage of this.”
It's a new angle now, she says citing an example. After eleven years, a well-trained woman quit, saying her children wanted emotional support. “For us part-time doesn’t work,” she says. “The fulfilling part of my job is talking to them. We nailed her problem — restructured her work, eliminated some. I was thrilled to retain her.”
Women could leave at 4 p.m., spend time with kids, and start work again at 8 p.m. “We are changing ourselves as an organisation — not the policy alone, but attitudes as well. We don't want to lose accomplished women; accommodation is given within the policy framework.” These include a flexible career path such as teaching, business development, company-based admin, non-deadline jobs, moving out of the project for a year. “We facilitate re-entry,” she says.
Swathi Rekha, Naturals Beauty Salon franchisee, follows the twin-policy of training and incentive. “There's a weekly incentive if they reach the target. Overshoot the target, and we go partying. And, my greatest strength is on-field training,” she says. “At our Russian Cultural Centre Academy, training is given by experts from high-end outfits such as L'oreal and Schwarzkopf. It covers communication strategies.”
A big plus is the girls are from the North-East, Darjeeling and Nepal. “They have no relatives locally, so there's no absenteeism. They are young and focussed.” There’s also said to be a ‘liberal’ cash-advance provision for their annual trips home or medical expenses.
“Our company is open to recruiting women looking to start their career after a break,” says Girija Rath, Human Resource, Radhakrishna Foodland. “Our infrastructure is women employee-friendly. If they need to work late, we drop them home.” There's maternity leave, and flexible hours for moms with small kids, he says.
Yet, “there's nothing a company can do if women make up their mind to leave,” says Rajani. There are overseas jobs, career growth, and more role models to identify with. “We owe it to ourselves to do something that brings out our potential.”