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Updated: June 17, 2014 18:54 IST

When women tilt the workplace balance

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A bold step Into a brave new world Photo: PARTH SANYAL
A bold step Into a brave new world Photo: PARTH SANYAL

More women are occupying workstations and positions of importance in the workplace, thanks to flexible schedules, options to work from home and accessible locations

Time was when you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of women employees in an organisation. Today the scene is different with more women occupying workstations and positions of importance in the workplace. So much so that in some offices, there is even an about-turn as women clearly outnumber men.

The change is attributable to many reasons besides the all-important level playing field, where employees are judged by performance and not gender. Also, the unwritten rule of being happy first seems to come increasingly with the emphasis on good results. Possible reasons include flexible work schedules, options to work from home, good cafeteria food (one less meal to cook!), accessible work location, work culture that helps foster cooperation and collaboration, etc.

We wonder if achieving this is a well-planned strategy for corporates today or a result of a good work environment and empathetic culture. “There has been no conscious policy-making to hire more women… we are, however, trying to analyse what factors could be aiding this trend. Flexible work arrangements, liberal leave policies, and trust-based relationships between employees and managers at ansrsource are all designed keeping in mind that ‘a happy employee is a productive employee’,” says Uma Mahesh of ansrsource, an academic content company where women enjoy a 2:1 ratio versus their male counterparts.

Quintiles, a pharmaceutical research company that is recognised as one of the world’s best multinational workplaces, is also among the top few with 50 per cent women in the senior management. Besides providing a conducive environment for women to further their careers while balancing the demands of personal and professional life, Quintiles has taken many other initiatives to help women succeed. “While it is extremely important to have policies that foster and encourage women in the workplace, there needs to be a work culture that supports and encourages diversity and believes equally in the strengths that women bring to the workplace,” says Trupti Talati, Senior HR Director of Quintiles India.

Today’s woman needs to be valued and recognised. They see equal opportunities in a friendly setup without being patronised. Their life situations are unique but so is their ability to multi-task and get the job done. Fast recognising this, organisations have somewhat succeeded in reversing the tide of women quitting mid-way for reasons ranging from marriage, maternity, husbands’ transfers, family problems to higher studies. Smaller companies such as Prakriti Herbals, which boasts a 4:1 employee ratio in favour of women, have many heart-warming comeback stories to share. Not shying away from describing women as more hardworking, honest, trustworthy, and loyal, founder Neeta Adappa adds, “We value our women workforce and they are like an extended family. We always deal with their problems with empathy. When my accountant quit after her delivery, I let her go with the assurance that she could come back after her child was a little older. And she did.”

There is no denying that education plays a key role to give women a major fillip, but that is not the only reason why the gender gap is diminishing in many offices. “Education may matter in some organisations, but in a skill-driven company such as ours, hard work and the willingness to learn matter the most and women clearly outshine in these areas,” emphasises Apoorva Sadanand, of Ally Matthan Creations where women are the majority in the workforce too.

What most organisations however come back with is that functions such as HR and training have visibly benefitted from the involvement of women across various organisations. “We cannot accurately tell why, but it has probably got a lot to do with the virtues of patience and empathy that women seem to have in plenty,” says Uma Mahesh. However, “What we need is for more women leaders to break the mould and blaze their own trail, be it in business, politics, society, literature, or sports.”

Hoping to see more women in the spheres of sales and marketing that require extensive travel, Adappa and Sadanand feel that can happen with the creation of a safer society in general. Echoing the sentiment, Talati said, “There are only a very few organisations that have a supportive work environment for women, so offering women-friendly work policies is still an area that many organisations need to address.”

As women make their presence felt within the workplace, organisations harp on the important role that families and society can play in understanding their needs and sharing their responsibilities. “Society has to be more responsive and receptive to the needs of today’s woman and offer the ecosystem that enables her to perform her role as a working woman,” says Talati. Mahesh says this support must primarily come from the family and the society. “The company provides the fertile ground where this flourishes.”

With women tilting the balance in their favour at the workplace and also calling the shots in uncommon spheres of employment, it will be interesting to follow their journey to know where they are headed next.

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