Companies turn sensitive to women back from sabbatical

  • Himani Chandna Gurtoo, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 12, 2015 22:53 IST

Nupur Gurbaxani, 33, joined Godrej Group as a manager and in four years rose through the ranks to became general manager, international business marketing. However, after a career break of 6 months post pregnancy, she received a call from her ex-employer to join them back for a more challenging project of developing business in Africa.

"After a successful stint I was promoted to associate vice-president in only a a year-and-a-half post my career break," Gurbaxani added.

There is a revolving door in Corporate India now to help women stay or return to the work-force, and the pressure to increase gender diversity in offices has mounted after rent legal pressures to mandatorily appoint women to the boards of listed companies.

Women who had personal aspirations or family responsibilities used to find it difficult to return to work. No longer.

Companies are turning more sensitive, thanks to the guidelines issued by the Securities and Exchange Board of India, which mandates all listed companies to appoint at least one woman director on their respective boards.

Indian corporate giants such as Axis Bank, Dabur, RPG Group,Tata Group and Godrej Group are drafting policies to build women-based talent pipelines by re-hiring female executives who went on sabbaticals.

Axis Bank, for example, has launched "Re-connect"- a programme that offers jobs to former women staff who have left the bank in the last 10 years. "In another policy, our interview panel will comprise male and women panelists in equal proportion. Then, we have told our HR consultants to send resumes of male and female candidates in equal proportion," said Rajesh Dahiya, HR head, Axis Bank.

Women seeking to return to the mainstream workforce often face daunting challenges, including a lack of opportunities and suitable roles that also offer more work-life balance. These concerns are being addressed.

"We provide 'second career internship' to women on a career break where they get an opportunity to work on a 'live' business project with approximately 500 hours of engagement on a flexi-time basis," said Richa Tripathi, chief HR officer, Tata Teleservices. "Individuals are provided with project fees between `3 to 4 lakh."

Godrej Group has initiated a "second careers" programme, which offers a chance to return to the workplace with aspirational and challenging business projects in various domains.

A study by the consulting firm Caliper has found women leaders to be stronger in interpersonal skills, and are more suited to today's diverse workplace, where information is shared freely and collaboration is vital.

Sebi has now decided to impose penalties on errant firms who haven't got at least one women on board. "Companies are struggling for prospective candidates because of the absence of consciousnesses to create women talent pipelines," said Rekha Sethi, director-general, of the All India Management Association (AIMA), who recently joined the board of two leading Indian firms - Sun Pharma and Calcutta Electric Supply.

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