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WORKING WOMEN

Remote working has helped India Inc improve its gender diversity quotient

Woman drinks coffee while working on her laptop at Java Lounge coffee shop in Colombo
Reuters/Dinuka Liyanawatte
Hard at work.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published

Giving more women the opportunity to work from home has helped India Inc improve gender diversity.

There was a huge surge in hiring women at the mid-management to senior level, with 43% of companies doing so, as compared to 18% in 2019, according to career platform JobsForHer. The recruitment site surveyed over 300 companies in the country in May 2021 for this report.

“It is heartening to see several organisations taking a step in the right direction to make the workplace more women-friendly,” said Neha Bagaria, Founder and CEO of JobsForHer. “We are hopeful that this trend will enable and encourage more women returnees, women in tech, and women in leadership roles to enter the workforce and climb the professional ladder while ensuring gender parity across all levels.”

Besides a greater acceptance of remote working, the boost comes from firms increasing hiring initiatives targeting women and improving maternity leave policies.

Work from home and hiring women

Post the coronavirus outbreak, four in 10 companies rolled out special and customised work-from-home roles.

“There has been a dramatic rise in the number of work-from-home jobs, as well as the number of applications for them,” the report noted. This trend has been a boon for married women in India, other research has shown.

In the survey, 69% of all companies agreed to have flexible work hours during the pandemic. This includes 89% of large enterprises and 61% of SMEs and startups. Flexible hours especially help women folk who’ve ended up doing the bulk of the unpaid care work at home amid the pandemic.

Indian companies are seriously thinking about gender diversity goals and achieving them: 87% of large enterprises and 49% of SMEs and startups stated it’s a top hiring priority. Two-thirds of the former and 41% of the latter said they achieved their gender diversity goal in 2020.

To create a fairer workplace, several firms revamped job postings and interview formats.

Despite these efforts, the pandemic did undo some progress when it came to gender diversity.

Fewer women working in India

Female labour force participation in India was already slipping and the Covid-19 outbreak did it no favours. Several women lost their jobs and few returned.

Overall, the average participation of women in the workforce across industries remained stagnant at 34% for 2020, JobsForHer noted.

Rehiring efforts also fell by the wayside. A total of 50% of all companies actively recruited women returnees in 2020, a 20% decline from 2019, as per JobsForHer.

Smaller firms were majorly responsible for the underwhelming numbers. In 2020, the average participation of women at SMEs and startups was 31% as compared to 39% in 2019, indicating a clear dip of 8 percentage points. At startups, special initiatives to hire women returnees declined over 14%.

Larger enterprises did a better job of conscientiously reintegrated employees returning to work than startups did.

Maternity and paternity leave in India

In 2017, India passed the Maternity Amendment Act, which increased the right to paid maternity leave for working women from 12 weeks to 26 weeks—the third highest in the world.

Four years on, 45% of all companies said that they offer six months of maternity leave, and 13% offer more. Large enterprises have especially stepped up efforts, with 20% of them offering more than the stipulated time, up from 14% a year prior, according to JobsForHer.

“Offering longer maternity leave is a step in the right direction. However, it is equally important to build a gender-balanced workforce and put family-friendly policies in place, not just women-friendly ones,” the report said. There has been a slight uptick.

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