Advancing women’s participation in the workforce is one of India’s major economic challenges today, which is why both the government and major employers have undertaken to make it easier for women who become mothers or caregivers to remain working or return to work after a career break.
Flexibility, a job attribute increasingly in demand among employees in India (and everywhere else), also happens to be an effective way to help working mothers balance their responsibilities in the office and at home, making it more possible for them to stay in the workforce, combating the infamous “motherhood penalty” of decreased earnings and slower advancement, and hopefully, ultimately helping to close the gender pay gap. At the Atlantic, Sharmilla Ganesan interviews Sairee Chahal, the founder of a digital platform called Sheroes that “aims to connect women seeking flexibility in their careers with companies that are open to the idea”:
Sharmilla Ganesan: How did Sheroes begin?
Sairee Chahal: A few years ago, I had set up a boutique consulting firm. We noticed we got lots of applications from women, highly accomplished ones, despite being a fairly small company that didn’t have many positions to fill.
Then we realized that it was our workplace flexibility that was attracting them. From here, the cognizance grew for me of a disconnect between women and the workplace, particularly as women became older and started balancing family life and work. Despite the fact that in India, women are encouraged to seek out highly qualified professions like medicine or engineering, many of them are unable to continue progressing in their careers once they get married or start families. …
A career is a result of the networks, resources, skills, opportunities and mentorships you have. While men seem to often have immediate access to these, women tend not to. If you look online at the content that is geared towards women, it tends to be of the “pink” variety: fashion, recipes, entertainment, childcare, and so on, but very little on building a career. We’re trying to put all those things in one place, where women can access them, especially women in small-town India, where careers don’t actually exist because of either distance or a lack of opportunity.
Sheroes is a kindred spirit of projects in the US tech sector like iRelaunch and Path Forward, which help mid-career women find their footing again in the workplace after taking career breaks to raise children or care for elderly relatives. Like India, Silicon Valley needs those women to help fill shortages of skilled talent. And even though American fathers are getting more involved in their children’s lives, mothers in the US still do the bulk of the work of raising children, meaning that their careers are more likely to get put on hold after adding a child to their family.