This is first of its kind qualitative study in urban India among the women in the corporate, media and development sector. The report highlights the challenges faced by women who are at high risk of dropping out due to pregnancy and child care, and recommend solutions
Gurgaon, April 25th, 2018: Ashoka University’s Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership (GCWL) today released first of its kind, qualitative study on lived experiences of maternity and career among women and their return to workforce across sectors titled “PREDICAMENT OF RETURNING MOTHERS.” With the objective of enabling women to retain their careers post-maternity, insights from this research will be used for programmatic interventions to support and empower pregnant women and returning mothers at workplace.
The insights were arrived at through an investigation of the complex network of individual, family, social, and workplace factors that force women to leave the workforce post pregnancy and child birth. The study also assessed initiatives taken both by the Government and corporates at several levels from mentorship to maternity management programmes to provide support to returning mothers to ease their transition and boost their career aspirations.
The report launch was attended by VPs and HR heads of several corporate houses. To name a few, Lavanya Shrinagesh, VP, Diversity and CSR, Genpact, Sarita Motwani, Assistant Manager – HR, TCS, Preeti Kalra, HR Business Partner, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Monica Dhar, General Manager, Reliance Industries were present at the event.
At the launch of the report Harpreet Kaur, Director, Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership (GCWL), Ashoka University said “The Indian workforce is tilted in favour of men and skewed against women. While there are few entry points for women, the exit gates are many – pregnancy, childbirth, child care, elderly care, lack of family support, and unsupportive work environment. These factors create a leaking pipeline that hinders women from reaching leadership positions. While 27% women join the workforce, 48% drop out within four months of returning from maternity leave, 50% drop out mid-career before the age of 30 because of childcare while only 16% of senior leadership roles are held by women in India. If these exit gates remain open, achieving the global goal of 50:50 by 2030 will be challenging.
Adding further she said, the Genpact Centre for Women’s Leadership (GCWL) envisages to create an end to end platform that would gradually address the re-entry barriers for returning mothers across sectors. The intervention aims to strengthen the existing eco-system and accelerate integration of returning mothers in the workforce and to ensure that maternity and childcare is not a deterrent for women in pursing their career aspirations. At GCWL, we work with several corporates that aims to address the mid-career attrition of women due to maternity by being a one-stop service provider for trainings, resources, and job opportunities. The Breakthrough programme will offer ongoing support for women looking to re-join the workforce post maternity”.
“Fixing gender imbalances and achieving gender parity is critical for organizations today, including Genpact. An important aspect of this is creating a supportive ecosystem for women, including those who return to the workforce after maternity leave. GCWL’s research, ‘The Predicament of Returning Mothers,’ is a bold step in that direction and explores the effects of maternity on women’s career paths while providing insights on how organizations can support pregnant women and returning mothers in the workplace,” said Lavanya Shrinagesh, Diversity and CSR Leader, Genpact.
“At the work place, pregnancy is seen as a reason for reduced productivity or inefficiency in women. At home, women are constantly asked questions about the worth of their careers in the context of motherhood. Pregnant women or mothers face fear and guilt to maintain a work-life balance on everyday basis, and this study recommends six action areas to empower women to cope and deal with transitioning back into work life.” Subhabrata Roy, Co-Founder, Purple Audacity Research & Innovation Pvt. Ltd
The Genpact Centre for Women Leadership (GCWL) firmly believes that maternity is a pause in women’s career, and should not be a full stop. The Centre envisions to create a platform that would gradually address the re-entry barriers for returning mothers to the workforce across sectors.
As part of the research, a total of 18 focus groups and 29 in-depth interviews were conducted amongst mothers. Mothers were divided into three cohorts:
Five Diversity and Inclusion expert in-depth interviews and nine HR representative in-depth interviews
were also conducted. The research was conducted in two metro cities – Delhi and Bangalore.
The research found various challenges that were common to all cohorts. In particular, women expressed challenges at four levels: individual, family, workplace, and social norms.
birth, they felt guilty of putting themselves before their child and family. This was amplified owing to lack of child care options and long present cultural conditioning.
The level of women’s education in India has witnessed a sharp rise from 2001-2011, with 116% more women passing out as graduates or above compared to just 65% increase among men. There has also been an increase in the number of women completing post-graduation (151%) and those earning professional and technical degrees (196%). However, the female labour force in India contributed only 17% to India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). If India can achieve the “full potential” scenario, wherein women and men have an equal participation in the economy, India’s GDP in 2025 could rise by 60%.
Often, a woman is not even in control of the decision to drop out of work or re-join work after a maternity break. According to documented data on the Indian workforce, while 27% women join the workforce, 48% drop out within four months of returning from maternity leave. Additionally, 50% drop out mid-career before the age of 30 because of childcare while only 16% of senior leadership roles are held by women in India. In a national survey by LinkedIn, 60% Indian women said they will slow down their careers once they have children. According to Avtar, a diversity and inclusion consulting firm, between 2003 and 2010 over 48% of employed women under 30 years of age dropped out of the workforce due to maternity and childcare.
Further, the National Sample Survey (NSS) (68th Round) indicates falling labour force participation rate among women aged 15-59 years. Participation rate for rural women dropped from 52.2% in 2004-05 to 37.8% in 2011-12. Urban female worker participation also fell from 26.1% to 22.2%. Global Wage Gap Report 2016-17 highlights that women represent 63% of the lowest paid wage labour.
GCWL’s Breakthrough Programme: Back From The Bump is embedded in the true understanding of the barriers and hurdles faced by mothers while returning to work, challenges faced by employers to re-integrate the returning mothers, and the interpersonal dynamics at home & at work due to social norms. The platform will offer support to women from corporate and development sectors in re-skilling and capacity building post maternity break, act as a platform for employers to connect and hire returning mothers, and create knowledge and resources for women and organisations to address post maternity attrition.
GCWL undertook a first of its kind research to explore and understand this complex network of individual, social and workplace factors, in urban India among the women in the organised sector. The research on The Predicament of Returning Mothers is the first cross-sectional research around maternity and career in the corporate, media and development sector that attempts to explore the effect of maternity and motherhood on career paths of women. The research focused on mining insights on enablers and challenges faced by women at high risk of dropping out due to pregnancy and child care.
A cross-sectoral, descriptive study design was utilised to conduct research in the urban settings of Delhi and Bangalore. Women from the private sector, social and development sector, and media and communications were divided among three different cohorts: Currently pregnant women not planning to return/uncertain, Women who have dropped out completely post their pregnancy, and Women who have returned to their work post their maternity leave but are facing challenges. The public sector was deliberately kept out the sample with the assumption that there would be ample initiatives and policy measures among public sector companies. Samples in the study were between the ages 25-35 years (as per NSSO 2011, close to 80% dropouts among work-force are among women less), a mix of mothers with 1 or more than 1 child, a mix of nuclear and joint families, a mix of higher management, middle and lower management, SEC: A2B1 (According to FLFP, the highest dropout is seen in post-secondary level of education).
The research revealed that for most women prior to their pregnancy, hurdles were limited and work was an integral part of her life. Women expressed their willingness to continue to work post-marriage, however, preferences such as location of the job, timings of the job, work industry etc. started to set in post marriage which otherwise were not vividly seen.
In the case of the first cohort, those who are currently pregnant and not planning to return/uncertain, the research revealed that a clear sense of fear emerged among all pregnant women. Many voiced their concerns of having taken a very long break and worried that they may not get their position back. Working women who were pregnant for the second time were found to be surer of themselves in terms of child-birth and care but expressed fear about the added responsibility of managing two children along with the lack of relaxation and flexibility with respect to work timings.
In the case of the second cohort, women who have dropped out completely post their pregnancy, the research revealed that there was a very myopic view of the woman’s job, and many complained that their husbands and in-laws did not find economic sense in them earning. At work, many samples stated that there was a lack of human support and motivation because their bosses considered them dispensable and incapable when they were pregnant. Post pregnancy, women needed flexibility with work timings and had no option and therefore, opted to resign. Women articulated that for them to be able to continue work, infrastructural support such as day-cares and crèche are essential within the organisation, although many had a negative perception of day-care facilities as they believed it to be unsafe for their children.
From studying women who have returned to their work post their maternity leave but are facing challenges, the research revealed certain factors that include: a strong sense of identity; a precedence of women working in their family, presence of role models that they could relate to, support from mothers-in-law, husbands and social circle, and financial instability at home. The workload of managing home, child and work, the lack of empathy and a negative attitude towards women at work from family members and subtle discrimination at the work place are some of the challenges women in the third cohort face on a regular basis.
From the employer’s perspective, on an overall level, managers of all three sectors (social, private and media) recognised the challenges of returning to work after pregnancy. They validated that childcare and maternity are the key exit gates for women. They also agreed that demotions of returning mothers often lead to resignations.
The analysis of the research findings revealed several challenges faced by pregnant women and returning mothers. Through this study the GCWL recommends Six Action Areas that be addressed in the Training Programme to ensure their smooth transition back into work life: Guilt Management, Negotiation Skills, Career Planning, Re-skilling, Awareness and Information, and Management (time, home and child).
Women are expected to play the role of a home maker, mother and employee to perfection, all at once. Without cooperation from family and colleagues, the resulting amalgamation of pressure, guilt, responsibility, and fear break even the resolute to move forward with their careers.
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