Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer is again in the news for having scrapped the work from home policy of her company. Earlier she had returned to work days after delivering her baby and got panned by women’s groups for setting the wrong precedent. She now runs WiT, Women in Tech, a volunteer group that helps talented women enter and stay in the workforce.
Indira Nooyi, CEO PepsiCo, in a recent interview, confessed that she would not have been able to concentrate on her career if not for the help and support of her husband in childcare for her sons. In contrast, the Mumbai local train ladies coup is a revelation.
On a return trip from work, while a group of girls chatter about college, the older women have work to complete,before they reach home. Some of them catch up on much needed sleep, they hardly get 5 hours a night. One woman has the rice out, sifting through it, readying it for cooking. She will bring out the dal next. And some even have vegetables out on their laps, slicing and cutting them for curry to be cooked at home. They reach home too late to cut andcook the dinner.
Welcome to the world of the Indian working mother. More and more companies are waking up to the daily travails of the woman at the workplace in spite of the 12 weeks maternity leave provided by the Indian Government, and now realize one of the main cogs in the wheel to keep women in the workforce is to address the issues faced by the working mother.
India traditionally, has had low economic activity rates. Even now, a woman with a high level of education drops out of the race because they are overcome by the pressures of handling baby and work.
A 2011 Nielsen study showed that 87% Indian women are stressed most of the time and 82% had no time to relax. The pressures of dealing with childcare without the accompanying support system of family or husband or proper infrastructure in the country in the form of nannies or crèches, adds to the stress. And still the number of working women has doubled in the last 15 years. There are about 5 % more women in senior levels in 2009 as compared to 2008 in Indian companies while Indian MNCs have seen a 15-20 % increase, a study by WILL, Women in Leadership forum has showed.
However the problem lies at the mid level, where women, mainly in their 30s are seen leaving the work talent pool. Studies have showed that one of the main factors preventing women to return to work was childbirth.
What are the difficulties faced by the working mother
Companies are trying to bridge these gaps where they can.
This goes to show that if a company shows that it cares about its women employees and makes it easier for them to work after childbirth, more women will be interested in coming back to work and concentrate on their careers. While more can be done, like mentorship programs for new mothers or paternity leave, for instance, these companies have shown the path in terms of best HR practices which actually retains talent where it is lacking most- middle and senior management of the company. This is not just a fresh change in the Indian workplace but also great news for mothers who would like to continue working or return to work after having children.