Radhika Shetty exited her full-time job in 2007 to raise her toddler for a few years. She left as a successful project manager leading technical teams at a reputed IT firm. After a few years when she tried getting back into the mainstream, Shetty had a hard time as offers were far and few.
Shetty isn’t the only woman executive who found it tough to make a comeback after pausing it to take care of her family. Most employers do not seem interested in candidates taking a long break for a variety of reasons, many questioning her ability to stay current with her chosen stream. Perhaps this explains why Indian technology industry has only 26% women in engineering roles and only 7% women at CXO levels.
But ‘Times they are a changin.’ Faced with the ever-increasing challenge of women dropping out of the workforce, several companies are putting in place policies to attract and recruit those looking to make a comeback. Companies like Accenture, Nutanix, SAP Labs and ThoughtWorks have programs that ensure a seamless transition back to work life. Below are some of the comments from company officials:
“Women find it tough to resume after a break due to various challenges, the biggest being lack of opportunities. At Accenture, we are committed to inclusion and launched Career Reboot in 2017 that helps them transition back into the workplace smoothly. The program builds the women through a six-month journey where they gain domain knowledge, besides networking with senior women leaders. It is a perfect restart to a career. We had more than 500 women employees under this program this year. It is not just about hiring women with a career break, but also ensuring an enriching journey enroute,” says Ritu Bhati, Managing Director for Human Resources at Accenture Operations – India.
“At SAP, we have co-created policies with employees that helps a smooth transition back to careers while balancing parenting responsibilities. We believe only a holistic approach would work in such a transition that includes supporting policies, development opportunities and flexible work environment. We provide an extended maternity leave of 16 weeks over the mandatory 26-week timeframe. Our offices have a Mother’s Room for nursing children and have also partnered with top birthing, women and childcare facilities to provide staff with care from obstetricians, neonatologists, pediatricians and gynecologists. Our child care center “SAPlings” is meant for working couples while our Employee Resource Group seeks to help parents connect and provide a platform for discussions on careers and personal challenges with their peers. Our flexi-work plans and mobile-working policies allow women to work from anywhere,” says Shraddhanjali Rao, Vice President of Human Resources at SAP India.
“At Nutanix, we launched WomEncore to welcome women with career breaks back into the workplace through a program of re-skilling and re-equipping for a successful future. Under the program, we take up 40 people through the year where a four-month training program comprises both classroom and practical workplace experiences designed to help them re-integrate better into a digital workforce. The program is part of Nutanix’s global initiative to ensure opportunities and choice of women in STEM and ensuring that we offer a way back for talented individuals,” according to Sankalp Saxena, SVP and MD – Operations at Nutanix India.
“For ThoughtWorks, our journey of inclusion began with a focus on ‘Women in Tech.’ The challenge has been to overcome the systemic patriarchy and unconscious bias that seeps into the workplace, making it toxic for everyone involved. Today, organizations are investing in leadership development, sponsorship and training programs. Add to this, some passionate mentors, a well connected network and a proactive work culture that prioritizes inclusive policies – and we have some of the key ingredients for a progressive tech industry. One of ThoughtWorks’ most popular initiatives is VAPASI, a no-fee certified technical training program for women technologists who want to restart their career in tech, after a break. Close to 100+ technologists have already been a part of the program and in 2019, we will have run eight workshops across our offices in India,” says Tina Vinod, Diversity and Inclusion Lead at ThoughtWorks, India.
#TalkTechToHer is another ThoughtWorks campaign that draws attention to what we call the ‘intangibles’ at the workplace. They ensure that a woman feels comfortable and supported enough to freely follow her technical passions. ThoughtWorks also has a very active Diversity and Inclusion Council alongside several Employee Resource Groups, she adds.
There are many more tech companies that have similar formal programs to bring back women to the workforce. Despite that a lot more needs to be done. As Sasikala Mahesh, a women executive who has restarted her career with a reputed IT firm, tips off, “Reskilling or catching up with tech advancements and being honest to the recruiting tech company about the kind of time and support one would require, can make a difference.”