By | Hema Ravichandar | Strategic HR Advisory, former CHRO Infosys Ltd
As March reminds us every year, gender is invariably the main focus for corporate diversity programmes and rightfully so. The business benefits of gender diversity are many. While winning the war for talent is the most obvious, many practitioners and researchers vouch for the complementary skills and perspectives that women bring, enhancing organizational productivity. Even customers demand organizational gender diversity before signing key partnerships.
Yet, organizations still struggle to attract and retain women. They battle the dreaded double dip—from junior to middle management and again from middle to senior management. Those who have succeeded in retaining high-quality female talent, have refined their women-oriented programmes by segmenting the workforce and addressing aspirations of each segment, much as in the case of customer segmentation of millennial-friendly programmes. Here’s my take on the different demographics.
The young aspirant: Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, she’s raring to go, eager to learn. Brimming with ideas and ambition, she is unfettered by the 3Ms—marriage, maternity and mobility. Don’t patronize her with “softer” assignments, and support her strongly if she faces organizational misogyny. Corporate tie-ups for suitable accommodation and secure work-home transport options are critical. Health food, peloton bikes in gyms and company-sponsored Zumba classes will get a strong thumbs up from her.
The elated expectant: She knows that her life is about to change. The first trimester is usually tumultuous. So, bear with her if she cuts short an important meeting and rushes for privacy into the washroom, or unwittingly plays the gender card by bursting into tears for a well-merited reprimand. While the maternity benefits policy is a staple, crèches, nursing rooms and “work-from-home” options can certainly sweeten the deal and anchor her to the workplace. Again, reporting managers need sensitization. Last-minute, late-night deadlines will not work for her—instead, give her assignments with longer lead times and let her set her own pace. Finally, review her work fairly and don’t let the stork get in the way of that well-deserved promotion.
The first steps to silverhood: Menopause is a natural part of aging in women, but unlike maternity it’s seldom discussed. This segment needs its own curated programmes—wellness clinics, counselling advice and even special leave provisions to address health related issues, including surgical procedures. Be gentle with them and make sure the organizational culture doesn’t make them pariahs when they end up with very normal mood swings. Leverage their wisdom as sounding boards and mentors for the other segments but more importantly make them feel included in senior management circles.
It’s time we stopped thinking of working women as a homogenous entity. Segment, customize and succeed in creating a truly gender inclusive organization.