“Will I have to take a break from work when I have children? If yes, how will I overcome the setback my career will face?” This is not a question most men ask themselves; but it is one that looms over many women, who are often expected to put their career on hold, usually after taking on responsibilities of marriage and motherhood.
Women are seen as the primary home makers and engage in most of the unpaid work in today’s capitalist society. This, of course, leads to festering inequalities in the household and at work. As an organisation, we want to talk about our role in reducing these existing inequalities by making it easier for women who want to return to work.
Flip the Question: What do Organisations have to offer?
When an organisation is empathetic towards women, it is empathetic towards everyone. It will provide positive employment experiences, strengthen team cohesion and help employees feel more secure in their jobs. If you’re still looking for an economic or business advantage of taking that extra step in favour of women returning to work, numerous studies have shown that women possess better leadership skills than men do or that more gender diverse teams generate more profit. That’s the data talking.
With the current family systems and social structures, many women may end up taking a break from work at some point in their career. We only need to remind ourselves of the value that each woman adds to our organisation, and the question changes: “What can organisations do to ensure they do not lose out on the incredible resource pool of women making a comeback? How can we tap on to the strengths of women looking for a career reboot?”
Believe in Possibilities & Challenge Biases
At Infoglen, we have been asking these questions and have also stumbled upon some answers. Saba Ahmad, Co-Founder and COO of Infoglen shares, “we believe in the potential of women who have been away from work and that’s where it all starts.”
It is clear to us that the main challenge for women returning to work, is how employers and organisations perceive them. Employers tend to assume that these women may take a break again if the need arises. The other concern is over their skill level: being out of the workforce for some years, they would not have the updated skills and relevant knowledge, which will affect performance. In our experience, we need self-reflexivity to realise that these concerns are rooted in the lack of belief in women’s potential and capabilities at work.
Though Infoglen is a tech company providing CRM solutions (which are constantly updating and evolving), we have women from non-technical backgrounds and other sectors, who joined us for a career reboot in the tech industry. To offer jobs to applicants who have not only been away from work, but are also coming in from a different industry, does require a strong belief in their potential. Of course, it’s not blind faith – recruiters at Infoglen look for a track record of quality work and experience in whichever industry or job the potential candidate was. More importantly, we look for people with a positive attitude, who are ready to take on new challenges, put on a learner’s hat and are curious to the core.
Look Ahead: When there’s a will there’s a way
Out of the many women today at Infoglen who returned to work after a break, is a business and quality assurance analyst (BA & QA Analyst), who, after 5 years of working with top organisations in India, had taken a 7 year break to spend time with her young daughter. As Infoglen was the first organisation she approached after her break, she did not have to face rejections before landing a job, like many women trying to get back into the workforce. “It’s a big deal that Infoglen consciously chooses to give women opportunities for a career reboot. It’s not very common.” She remembers her transition as a challenging time, where she studied for 6 months, gave exams and acquired certifications to upskill herself, prior to starting work at Infoglen. The first few months required that she put in extra effort, working and studying to increase her technical knowledge. “I really wanted to work and wanted to get things done. And that’s the great thing about women who want to get back in the game – they are ready to take on more than they would have earlier.”
She added about her experience, “everyone, from the leadership, my team members and to the HR, have been really supportive since the beginning. The Co-Founders, Haroon and Saba, took out time to help me understand my role. The team I was directly working with helped me learn about the new systems. HR was always available to answer any queries.”
Provide Support: We’re all in this together
Many of the women working at Infoglen, like the employee sharing her experience above, may need to go an extra mile in the first few weeks or months till they feel more confident about their performance. During this stage, Infoglen provides the initial time, support and handholding to make the transition easier and smoother for them. It’s not just support from leadership that counts. The real difference is made when that support and sensitivity travels across the entire ecosystem and reaches the new employee transitioning back to work.
Another major factor that can help women employees in this situation is the presence of other women employees in the same situation. Sometimes, women may feel alone or suffer from a lack of confidence about their skills or their position at work because everyone around them may seem more aligned with the system, jargon, etc, even though these women have years of experience under their belt. In such a scenario, having other women colleagues who have recently returned from a break or have gone through the transition at some point, can be a huge source of comfort, motivation and inspiration. We have seen a wonderful bond form between women employees who look out for each other and actively help each other in overcoming challenges. It is only possible to have women employees like these present in relatively large numbers across the organisation, if a mindful decision is made to welcome such women back into the workforce, helping them relaunch their career in the tech industry.
Infoglen’s motivation to give an opportunity to women returning from a break is simple: There is a huge talent pool of skilled & experienced women who are ready to get back in the workforce. They just need a little guidance and motivation to show them the possibilities that could open for them. All they need is some training and updating their skill set with the latest certifications. Infoglen provides these opportunities to women who want to reboot their careers after a break. Experience and skills can be easily taught, but resilience, openness towards change and willingness to learn is harder to build within people, and thus more valuable. Especially, in the COVID-19 economy, where entire organisations are trying to adapt their processes and people to new ways of working, new types of platforms and new technologies, having women who are ready to face the “new normal” in their own lives, has been an asset for us and will be so in any organisation.