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Break Ke Baad: Indian companies woo women on comeback trail

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The Economic Times
21st November, 2021 06:41 IST

Nearly half the Indian companies are actively hiring women who had dropped out of the corporate workforce due to maternity, caregiver responsibilities and other personal commitments, according to data shared exclusively with ET by JobsForHer, an online career platform for women, from a survey of 300 companies.

The Covid-19 pandemic created a level playing field for women wanting to pursue a career despite familial commitments, as it led to a spurt in working from home. But this resulted in a disproportionately higher burden of household chores for women, forcing many of them to quit their jobs and exacerbating in the process an already pressing challenge of a leaking talent pipeline.

However, efforts by corporates to recruit women who want to make a comeback have got a fillip with the easing of the pandemic, as many companies have opened several new roles to remote or hybrid work options. The strengthening of support infrastructure such as creches and schools has also enabled women to juggle work and home more comfortably.

"There is a huge war for talent and if companies have to win, they have to get women wanting to return into the system," said JobsForHer CEO Neha Bagaria. "An increasing number of organisations are reaching out to us to help in institutionalising their returnee programmes."

In the survey, 38% companies said the women returnees hired by them were doing well in their roles.

'Fantastic Talent Pool'
These companies also said that the recruiters were now more sensitised to understanding women returnee applicants. "It is a fantastic talent pool - women returnees are qualified with prior work experience, have no notice period and have fire in their belly to prove themselves," said Bagaria.

A bunch of companies such as Axis Bank, Tata Steel, Vedanta and PwC are conducting special drives and coming up with new policies to hire women returnees. "The pandemic saw an unequal burden of household responsibilities falling on women. Now, as things open up, we need to acknowledge their skills and make a concerted effort to get them back," said Rajkamal Vempati, head of human resources, Axis Bank.

The leading lender is offering various flexible work models. "We are looking at hiring not only second career women but also homemakers who may have briefly worked at some point and not been part of the professional circuit otherwise," said Vempati.

Diversified miner Vedanta has started an initiative called 'Ghar-Wapsi' (homecoming), under which it is rehiring professionals across grades and domains, and out of the total talent pool, 25% will be women leaders.

It has other initiatives - such as mentoring programmes and leadership training, giving women critical roles - to help women returnees get acquainted back to the fast-track career path after they resume work, said Madhu Srivastava, group chief human resources officer, Vedanta. Tata Steel, which has set a target of 25% diversity by 2025, is actively taking steps to onboard more women, not just in offices but also on shop floors, said Atrayee Sarkar, vice president, human resources management, Tata Steel. The company's second career programme provides work avenues in the form of project-based assignments on live projects.

At PwC, women employees can take the benefit of a 'retain your rating' policy to transition back from maternity break without the hard landing into an appraisal cycle. "The talent segment of women who are rejoining the workforce is a key plank of our talent diversity agenda," said Padmaja Alaganandan, chief people officer, PwC India.

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