Just What You Need If You’re Trying To Return To Work!

A tribute to women reclaiming professional identities, confidence, financial freedom and agency. Finding a way to have a career that works for their lives. And them being Found Again after being "missing" from the workforce.

“I cannot believe I got a job after so many years.”

“You guys are Angels. I have a new life now because of you.”

“I did not know I could ever dream big again.”

Our team members at FlexiBees have been used to hearing these and similar sentiments from Women over the past several years. They knew they were contributing something vital to these women’s lives through their work. And this was not by chance. FlexiBees was birthed out of the need to provide meaningful career options to women who needed flexibility – mothers, women who relocated to smaller towns with limited opportunity after marriage, caregivers and others who were constrained in some way or another. There are many reasons why Women drop out of the workforce, and we set out to fix this leaky bucket via our business that matched client roles across functions – to skills that these extraordinary women possessed. While giving each side the flexibility to hire and work at the pace and time needed.

By we – I mean Shreya, Rashmi and myself (Deepa) – friends and batchmates from our B School who got together to address the problem I faced in 2016. Of finding it hard to return to full-time work after a career break due to life circumstances. It was my problem, but it was also the problem faced by millions of women professionals, all resulting in the singular data point that screams “20% Female Labour force participation”, despite the education and pedigree that often comes before the break. FlexiBees was our solution, and women’s gratitude after finding a job via us was our reward.

Our team and we had internalized the stories of the struggle and triumph of these women over the years and were always inspired by them. So when one of us expressed a simple idea at a team meeting in FlexiBees, “hey, let’s do something to showcase the powerful returnship journeys of the women we have placed?” – it seemed like a no-brainer. An idea whose time had come. The soil had been getting ready for a long time, and the seed was sown. We just had to nourish the plant.

The Book – “Found Again – Real Stories of Women, Work and Flexibility” – was visualized as our medium of sharing what we knew about these incredible women with the World. So that more women could see what was possible, what they could do, despite the hard choices they faced. And take actions from a place of self-belief rather than shame or guilt.

We began our research and found ways to publish a book while putting together a “Book Team” drawn from multiple functions in our company. We were not sure of the shape and form the Book would take at the time. But we knew that this could not be a clinical recounting. These women professionals had so much of their identities tied to work. Being financially independent, thriving at their workplaces, ambitious and having it all till a time. They had finally chosen duty over desire in a binary world that did not honour the fullness of their lives.

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The stories in the Book needed to unravel these layers of human identity, suffering, and choice. And the many roads they travelled to find themselves again, following that choice. We needed to traverse each protagonist’s heart and soul, as much as her brain, to see her “Real Story”. The real her.

We decided to conduct in-depth interviews with 20 protagonists selected from the thousands whom we had placed. Drawing from as diverse a pool as possible across functions, geographies and life stages. Beyond a point, there could not be a criterion in selection – as the number of stories we wanted to publish in this first humble attempt was a fraction of the voices we wanted to showcase. All this on an audacious timeline. We conceived the Book project in January and wanted the Book to be released in March during Women’s month (which we did).

Another decision that was made in line with the vision and timeline for the Book was that it would be Co-authored by the Co-founders of FlexiBees itself. Bringing in our perspective where relevant, and more importantly, writing with the respect and empathy we felt for the women themselves.

We used a simple system to manage the project that was refined in real time and began. We tuned in to the captivating stories the protagonists had to share: of sacrifice and redemption, courage and resilience. We started the next phase of the journey – writing the stories.

“Deciding to take a break was very easy, but going through it was quite difficult because looking after a baby full-time is hard… I had a notebook where I used to maintain all my expenses. I calculated for an entire year and decided to generate at least that much money in my bank account.” Asmita, one of the protagonists, had said. Bringing out acutely the physical, emotional and financial transitions that motherhood and career loss bring about, often simultaneously.

Once they decided they were ready to make it back, these women were often faced with rude setbacks, of being questioned about their “career break” and readiness to get back. They often found they had to compromise deeply on a role, pay, or both if they needed flexibility at work.

“My knees were in pain, my shoulders, even my elbows. Everything was painful because my mind was not in a good place. I had lost my financial independence and could not find a true path toward it. In my thirties, I was getting pain that people would get after they aged.” Bansi had said of the toll that the lonely period of searching for a job took on her health and life.

Despite these hurdles, they persisted. They kept searching for that one opportunity to prove themselves and refused to give up on their dreams. While doing courses, upskilling themselves, and doing hands-on projects bagged after much cajoling from friends and family.

Their resilience and perseverance paid off in the end. They eventually found a path to balance their personal lives with fulfilling careers via part-time remote roles enabled by FlexiBees.

“Although I was scared, I was prepared to give it my 100%. I told myself my employers had seen something in me, which is why they want me to work with them.”, said Deepa (Gontla), who had found her dream job as a Research Analyst after a career break of a decade, highlighting the loss of confidence and severe imposter syndrome that happens together with the loss of identity.

We authors were not new to imposter syndrome ourselves. While our writing the stories added authenticity and commitment to our vision for the Book, we were often overwhelmed by the pressure to do justice to the women featured – to capture the essence of her journey in the right light, without judgment.

This Book eventually became a Tribute to Women finding all the aspects they reclaimed after restarting work. Their professional identities, confidence, financial freedom and agency. Them finding a way to have a career that works for their lives. And them being Found Again after being “missing” from the workforce.

As Deepa (Gontla) summed it all up, “My mother feels elated to talk about my progress to our relatives, and I show her the things I buy with my salary. Most of all, I am working on my dream job right from home.”

“Found Again” is a compendium of diverse stories and experiences. But it is also an Overstory – of us Founders, experiencing these journeys vicariously. And of us rediscovering why we exist and re-affirming our mission to empower women – again.

Want a copy of this book?

If you’d like to pick up Found Again : Real Stories of Women, Work & Flexibility written by Shreya Prakash, Deepa Narayanaswamy, and Rashmi Rammohan, use our affiliate links at Amazon Indiaand at Amazon US.

Women’s Web gets a small share of every purchase you make through these links, and every little helps us continue bringing you the reads you love!

Image source: a still from Astitva the series, and book cover Amazon

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