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A Talent Pool that Cannot be Ignored

Source | JobsforHer : By Schonali

How many of you know a qualified, experienced, capable woman who stepped away from her career to take care of her family?

She could be your ex-colleague, ex-classmate, your friend, your wife, sister, or yourself?

Well, she’s not the only one.

I was one of them.

After I graduated from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, I founded my first company Paragon – an educational centre in Bombay to introduce the American Advanced Placement program to Indian high-school students.

2 years into Paragon, I got married and moved to Bangalore because of which I shut down Paragon and joined my husband’s family business – Kemwell.  I worked there for 5 years, and never thought the day would come when I would stop working.

In fact, I worked till the 9th month of my pregnancy and told my colleagues I’d be back in 40 days –  I didn’t even clean out my desk.

And that’s when a baby gave birth to a mother.

40 days later, I asked for a year off.  By the time one year was over, I was a raging full-time mom and decided that just like my mother and my mother-in-law and most other women I knew, I would be a full-time stay-at-home mom.

3 years later, things changed again when I gave birth to my second son.  For the first time, I was forced to shift my attention away from my first child and I was shocked to see that the skies didn’t fall down.  In fact, he became more independent and his relationship with other family members, including his dad, started growing.  Second time around, motherhood also seemed like a piece of cake.

Moreover, a lot of frustration had seeped in by then and I realized that if I wanted to be a happy mother, I needed to be a happy person and for that, I needed to get back to work.

So I jumped back to work at Kemwell where I knew exactly what the need of the hour was and how I could fulfil it.

The year that followed was an eye-opener for me.  Getting back to work was a daunting but extremely positive experience – not just for me, but also for my children; definitely for my husband and also for the company.

I thus started questioning all my friends why they weren’t restarting their careers.   And these friends, as you can imagine, are lawyers, MBAs, architects, engineers – all ambitious, capable women who had stepped away and were just not getting back.

It was based on their stories and their experiences that I decided to found JobsForHer in March 2015.

Because I also realized that this problem is not just mine and my friends alone; it is a much bigger problem.

In India, out of 100 college graduates, 40 of them are women today.  That is a huge testament to the work done by our mother’s generation and we are literally standing on their shoulders today.

But out of those 40 women, only 8 pursue a career.  And out of those 8, 4 drop out in 3 years.

That means, 50% of all working women in India are dropping out of the workforce in 3 years, amounting to approximately 1.5 million Indian women who are going on a career-break every year.

The reasons as you can imagine are usually personal – marriage, motherhood, elderly care and the like.

And when she does want to get back to work, there are several roadblocks in her way.  First, she usually doesn’t want to go back to her old company because her peers have become her seniors and that’s very difficult to digest.  Second, if she’s taken a longer career break, there’s usually a skill gap which needs to bridged.  Third and the biggest problem, is the huge loss of confidence that every woman on a career break goes through.

This leads to several problems for companies. It is easy for them to find fresh female talent but extremely difficult to find experienced ones.  Companies are experiencing what is called the Leaky Talent Pipeline in which they start with 30% women at the entry level; but it drops to 10% at the management level and then 1% at the CEO level.  Companies worldwide are realizing that this lack of diversity is impacting their bottom lines; because only with diversity can you have diverse perspectives, diverse capabilities, and diverse strengths – all of which are critical for a company’s success.

In fact, UNDP estimates that India’s GDP can increase by 27% if female participation matches male.

Which is why companies across India are partnering with us in several ways to solve this problem.  They are running recruitment drives and offering job openings ranging from full-time to part-time, work-from-home, freelance, projects.  They are providing reskilling programs so that women can update themselves in the latest technologies.  They are also working with us to provide returnee programs which are usually 3 to 6 month internships for career-break women to ramp up and then get absorbed as a lateral hire.

All these efforts are leading to stories like Uma Maheshwari.

Uma had worked for 18 years, growing from a telesales executive to the AVP at HDFC Bank.  When her sons became 8 and 11 years old, she felt the urge to step back from her career.  Everyone around her called it career suicide but Uma didn’t care.  The next 5 years, Uma spent cooking, helping with homework, disciplining and taking lots of vacations.

Today, her children are 13 and 16 and Uma again felt the urge to get back to work.  She applied to jobs on several traditional portals and got many interviews with placement agencies.  However, as soon as they heard about the break in her career, they balked and she never heard from them again.

Luckily, Uma heard about JobsForHer and applied to some job openings on our portal.  In 3 days, she was interviewing with Kotak Mahindra Bank.  20 minutes into the interview, they offered her the role of AVP/Branch Head at their 2nd largest branch in Karnataka; and she joined them the following Monday.

Uma’s story is a possible story.

So get back to that woman you know and let her know that you have found her a path back to the workforce.  And if you know a company, tell them to open up their doors to women restarting their careers.

Because this is a talent pool that cannot be ignored.


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