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Women returning to the workforce after a break need (and deserve) complete support and understanding from both families and organisations. Here’s why such support is our right to demand!
How will you feel when you walk into a conference room for an interview and the first thing that is remarked upon when you put across your profile is, “Oh, so you have a couple of years’ gap in your career”? This is my interviewer saying to me, “I sometimes feel bad for you women who have all the qualification and experience but because you have taken breaks we cannot consider you for the role”. To add to all this, he says, “I have hardly seen any Indian woman who is really career oriented; either they want to take a break because they don’t want to send their child to day care or they are so busy supporting their husbands’ career that they completely give up their own goals”.
At last, he finally tells me that he can still consider me but for the junior most position in the company. I came back telling him I will need time to confirm my joining and all along I was thinking, Where did I go wrong?
Such conversations have occurred with Senior Directors or Managers in an organization which highlights in bold that they stand for Inclusion and Diversity on all their websites! Most don’t consider the fact that woman’s careers in most cases are really defined by family support and circumstances. I will sound so anti-feminist here but let’s face it, after marriage we make it our responsibility that we need to keep the family together, make sure our husband’s career is never impacted negatively because of our career goals, the kids’ education and health becomes our prime responsibility. In managing all this, most of the times our careers take a back seat and in some adverse cases we completely give up our jobs to cater to all the other responsibilities.
Then, when we try to get back in the market looking for a job, instead of support and understanding we have to face such remarks from people who are running the show in so-called ‘Inclusive and Diversified’ organizations.
This is not a question of ‘charity’ or sympathy if we demand support from our family, our spouses, the companies whom we want to work for as returning mothers or women who have been out from the workforce due to so-called family constraints or circumstances. I really want the men to understand that the woman who are asking for support are the ones who have given their unconditional support and encouragement to any job-related decision you have made in your life. They have tried to cover all other aspects of your family life while you focused on your careers. The support that we need from kids and other family members during this phase is well justified – we have always put their interests first before taking any decision in our careers.
During this period of time, although you may feel all this was in vain since, as you try to step into the workforce again, all you are given is a fresh start undermining all your accomplishments and experience in the past and you are offered roles which do no justice to your qualification or experience. You are indirectly exploited in the workplace by getting paid way below the pay scale you deserve, and simultaneously you are being judged and made to feel as if the company is doing you a favour giving you a job that you don’t deserve!
When you expect your wives to compromise and adjust to all the demands of your progressing career or to all the family circumstances, it is not unfair for us to ask that you reciprocate the same when we are trying to bounce back. The support here needs to be emotional, it needs to be in the same way we supported you by adjusting to your schedules and taking out time for kids and family, and the support needs to be in a way where you make sure that she bounces back in all possible ways!
The support we need from the organizations is not just by highlighting the fact that they are supportive of returning mothers and women who were on break but making the environment conducive internally so that they don’t feel let down in every step of the selection and finally in the organization if they join at all. All we need is a period of training and the support of people who are empathetic towards us and not hostile. Again, I would like to highlight that this is not a favour when you try to support women returning to the workforce – we truly deserve it because we are the ones who have unconditionally supported a majority of the workforce in your organizations.
Top image is of actor Jyothika attending an interview in the Tamil movie Kaatrin Mozhi
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