Author: Athira Premarajan
Getting ready for that important phase in life, it’s every woman’s trauma mentally and physically, to re-enter the workforce after a career break. Women who take maternity breaks are the most common group seen to have this conundrum. And as obvious as it is, the reasons are many, starting from personal familial responsibilities to workplaces that are unsupportive or unwelcoming of this cohort. Along with the personal challenges these women face constraints such as lack of time, lack of social contact and networking, and most critical, lack of intentionality, they also confront other barriers that stop them from re-entering the workforce. The external factors that pose barriers are lack of support from family, and support from the workplace in the forms of recruitment, career development, child-care support, etc.
These external factors are very important in defining a woman’s career progression. Take the family for instance. It is actually a double-edged sword. Familial duties are the one critical factor that is blocking women from achieving their career pursuits. And for successful women, it is family and supportive family members that enable them to outperform. Avtar has yielded hard proof of this during the pandemic days (thanks to Covid!). Avtar’s annual publication Viewport 2021 https://avtarinc.com/resources/reports/chore-division-dynamics-at-indian-homes-an-exploratory-research-during-covid-times/recorded changing mindsets of Indian working professionals. The research study titled, Chore Division & Dynamics at Indian homes: An exploratory research during COVID times yielded a set of amazing results that reflects the evolved minds of today’s aspiring professionals and supportive allies. The study records:
- 22% of female respondents with full-time employed partners, reported equal time-share (2 to 5 hours) of housework with their partners
- 91% of the respondents with children, claimed that household chores are not divided based on gender
- In nuclear families, 54% of men spend 2-3 hours on housework.
Thanks, allies, we are halfway there. These numbers are what we have been hoping to achieve for centuries and at a lesser rate. We are glad that Avtar could record this in its pan-India survey – our allies have already taken their roles seriously in helping women realize their career aspirations. The support system has improved and so are their lives and dreams. It is all about mutual respect and giving, where both parties can achieve their life goals. Managing a household is considered one of the toughest jobs and women possessing these skills have been seen to outperform in their careers. Thankfully a good number of men today are real-life heroes who have understood the concept of allyship and the importance of it in the lives of women.
Now how do we turn the table for those who are yet to receive the support system for a seamless entry into the workforce?
Have a solid action plan:
From planning to action, one should have good clarity on the route they will have to take to reach their destination. Be it skill-building, re-skilling, resume updating, networking, or seeking knowledge on the kind of work, profile, and industry one want to be in, women must have a clear vision of the roadmap to career re-entry.
Involve spouse in discussions and decisions:
One of the prominent male allies of women may be their spouse. Involving them from the early phase of career re-entry can help women in getting the required support be it as a mentor, role model, advocate, or networking partner, spouses can become the best allies. They can also be the backbone support while communicating your career plans with other members of the family.
The attitude of “you can’t have it all”:
Highly successful women talk about the sacrifices they had to make for leading their career journey. Starting with reduced family hours to missing the most important of their kids’ school events, there will be times when you cannot be at both venues. The women themselves must understand this and attain a balance along with the family members who need to be made to understand the importance of having a profession.
One of the critical factors you have in control is your strength to communicate. Work on convincing techniques to help yourself in getting through the cultural barriers that may be thrown at you. Subtle statements with strong opinions can help you in achieving triumph, thereafter, sensitizing the culturally sensitive members of the family.
Concluding on that note, Avtar has also been a strong ally, by being there, helping with women’s workforce participation, in different formats we could, for more than two decades now. But one thing we know is, that if women do not set out on a journey of their own intentionally, to achieve and aspire, we wouldn’t have been able to reach these numbers that we have today.