Earlier this year, while babysitting his grandchild, business tycoon Anand Mahindra shared a picture on twitter showing men and women on the starting line of a race track with women having to clear hurdles on the track such as household chores, and other tasks.
This prompted him to share, “I salute every working woman and acknowledge that their successes have required a much greater amount of effort than their male counterparts.”
So it doesn’t come as a surprise when the annual research VIEWPOINT 2019 by AVTAR with the theme, ‘Second Careers of Women Professionals – The India Story’ reveals that close to 48 percent of Indian women quit work midway to attend to familial commitments.
Set up in 2000 AVTAR is India’s diversity advocate and workplace inclusion expert and has focused on women’s workforce participation providing second career opportunities for women.
The participation of women in the workforce has been falling drastically. According to NSSO data, it fell from 36 percent to 24 percent in the past decade. It is a wake up call for to work towards ensuring more women stay on and continue to contribute to the economy.
Reasons women take a break
The VIEWPORT 2019 survey was conducted among 783 second career women from across various industries and sectors with an average work experience of 9.5 years and an average duration of 4.4 years career break.
Of this 45 percent took a break due to motherhood challenges, and 35 percent because of maternity. And around 16 percent women took a break to care for the elderly.
This shows that the primary challenges of household chores, care giving and parenting falls largely upon working mothers making it challenging for them to balance work and home and hence most women quit the workforce.
Returnship: challenges and preparedness
Clearly, lack of support at home is one of the barriers for second career women. Almost 23 percent face insufficient support at home, other challenges include absence of strong network which accounts for 59 percent and skill gap which accounts for 36 percent.
The report says what drives the career aspiration of these women is the need for financial security, putting education to good -t he primary reasons for them to return.
The report also reveals that women wishing to return to work do spend time on upskilling themselves. Almost 69 percent indicated that they upskilled themselves during the break and almost 66 percent have had mentoring conversations revealing that mentors play a critical role in enabling women to return to their careers.
Almost 69 percent of the respondents anticipate a pay cut on their career re-entry. The report shows that there is a prevalence of motherhood wage penalty.
Which begs the question – why should women pay the penalty of motherhood?
The road ahead
There is no doubt that women want second careers, are ready to upskill themselves and want to return full time but corporate entities are not doing enough to recruit them and also to give them a good package.
Dr Saundarya Rajesh, Founder-President of AVTAR Group says,
As an early evangelist and a second career woman myself, it is heartening to see the momentum build in the second career movement. We have been seeing how companies are benefiting by recruiting these second career women in our annual Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI) study, which we launched in association with Working Mother to identify and celebrate the best practices followed by companies for increasing women’s workforce participation in country.
Saundarya adds, “While there has been steady progress, the country requires more companies across segments and geographies to implement women-friendly policies that will not only help them improve overall performance but also elevate India’s position on the global women workforce map.”