How Do We Retain Women @ Work? The Best Companies In India Tell Us How

The Best Companies for Women in India survey tells us companies are making increased efforts to create gender equality in the workplace; a look here at what’s working and what remains to be done. 

The number of women in India who access any form of paid work has always been low and faced a new low with the onset of the pandemic. Working Indian women comprise only about 20% of the total Indian workforce.

A combination of socio-cultural factors including the expectations placed on women to look after the house and the family has contributed to their under-representation in paid work. Other factors include women’s safety (in and outside work), late working hours, a lack of attention to the needs of female employees, and gender-based discrimination. However, not all organizations have turned a blind eye to these problems.

The Best Companies for Women in India study, conducted annually by Avtar, in partnership with Working Mother Media, identifies 100 top companies after looking at seven key factors – Workforce Profile, Recruitment, Retention, Advancement, Safety & Security, Flexible Work, Parental Leave & Parental Benefits, Benefits & Work-Life Programs, Company Culture & Management Accountability. Impactful developments by organizations on these fronts encouraged women to retain their professional roles while balancing their personal lives. A few of the top companies that are featured in the report for 2022 include Accenture Solutions, Barclays in India, Citi India, EY, Genpact India, IBM India, and Infosys Limited.

While the complete report for 2022 is yet to be released, a look at past studies shows us how Indian Inc can bring in and retain more women at work.

Women for women – through leadership, networking, and more.

Recruiting women using innovative hiring policies is not where the top 100 have stopped. They have taken the goal of nurturing their employees seriously. As a result, companies are helping women navigate their careers and encouraging them to become leaders through various development programs. Women-led networks, personal discussion spaces, and career coaching have been some realistic programs that have helped women think independently and advance.

Prioritizing safety

Odd working hours, long distances between work and office, faulty public transport, and the presence of miscreants hinder women from taking opportunities that could help them climb up the professional ladder. In many cases, their families ask them to leave the job or not accept a promotion because safety, not just outside work but also at work, is not guaranteed. To help overcome this barrier, the top 100 have provided access to necessities such as verified transport, safety training, employee grievance portals, and time flexibility. At the same time, evolved sessions on sexual harassment, workplace dynamics, and safety helplines/grievance officers can help women express their concerns without fear.

Well-being at work

Many companies have come up with top-notch ideas that ensure the well-being of women at work. For instance, some companies provide a one-time allowance to help set up home offices; others provide insurance extending to immediate family, live-in partners, and pets. Women can also enroll in emotional and financial sessions to discuss their challenges. The provision of leaves to cater to mental health and emotional well-being has allowed employees to rejuvenate without feeling guilty and has further made the workplace more humane, especially for women.

Enabling mothers to thrive

Corporate policies are supporting women by recognizing motherhood in its many forms. Women are eligible for maternity leave, even if it is via fertility, adoption, and surrogacy. What is also important is that companies are encouraging paternity leaves that help the partners of male employees. Maternity wellness programs, child care support, and leaves for miscarriages have also been some of the crucial areas tapped by the D&I teams.

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The policies covered above were only a few of the many that have helped the top 100 earn the badge of Best Companies for Women in India. But the hustle does not stop here. Companies are yet to work on many essential fronts for the welfare of their employees who identify as females.

What can we do better?

Many among the top hundred companies have showcased their results of the smooth back-to-work transition of women after maternity leave. However, only a handful of companies have presented an action plan needed to minimize the bias when evaluating the appraisals of women who have returned. It is essential to know that new mothers are not just employed but also empowered in their workplace after their necessary break. Training must be given to managers on this aspect so that they do not consider maternity leave to be a vacation.

Statistically, a fair percentage of female employees work during their menstruating age. But the presence of menstrual hygiene in awareness-building plans is minimal. Many corporates are yet to consider a plan around period leaves,  and while they are at it, we hope they have a solid plan of action dedicated to the women experiencing menopause or are on the verge of it.

The single woman is still, to an extent, subject to bias in the workplace. They may need to justify to their colleagues why they are not married or, worse, justify the need to maintain a work-life balance because they do not meet the conventional definition of having a family. Companies should conduct training to minimize this discrimination.

Lastly, it is good to know how corporates provide reasonable accommodation to their contract employees. The category comprises females in the housekeeping, security, and kitchen staff, among many others. Even though these individuals are third-party employees, they play a prime role in helping the company function; how are the top 100 rewarding them?

The top hundred companies have come a long way in giving women the support and recognition they deserve from their workplace. But some noticeable barriers still exist. We hope to see more corporates across industries working creatively to diminish the biases and discrimination against women in the upcoming lists.

Image source: mentatdgt on pexels

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About the Author

Rhea Sakhardande

I am a researcher working toward understanding the complex fabric of society. I have a Master's degree in Sociology and am currently exploring Diversity and Inclusion in corporate spaces. read more...

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