Female professional pool increases during pandemic

While women working in labor-intensive, unorganised sectors faced job cuts and salary reduction during the pandemic, few corporates, IT industry and banking sector, on the other hand, have encouraging facts to share.

Increase in numbers

Prachi Rastogi, diversity and inclusion leader, IBM Asia Pacific, highlights the steep increase in hiring of women in technology. This has gone up to almost 50%, says Rastogi. “In addition to hiring fresh female graduates, we also welcome women who had taken a hiatus due to personal reasons and were eager to join back,” she says.


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Kishore Poduri, country head, human resources, DBS Bank India, says, “We have many initiatives and programmes in place under the 3Cs – Conscious acquisition, Customised development and Continuous engagement, which we are monitoring continuously. Our overall diversity ratio is over 30%. Over the last five years, our new hire diversity has grown by 10%, and diversity attrition has more than halved,” adds Poduri.

Hiring more women

“Several women in their late 20s and early 30s have to give up on their professional life to devote more time to the family requirements. With the pandemic, employees across sectors, regardless of their age, gender, and location were working from home. This levelled the playing field for females as well,” says Rastogi.

Another positive trend noticed here is that more candidates are applying from tier-II and III cities, she adds. “The pandemic has acted in the favour of both companies and female candidates. Geographical location is no longer a hindrance for the professionally inclined while companies have a wider pool of talent to choose from,” says Rastogi.

Pudari says, “Banking and consulting sectors have traditionally had better diversity ratio compared to other industries. Today, companies are exploring different hiring strategies like return-to-work programmes for those planning to join after career breaks. There’s also an impetus on strengthening diversity in senior leadership roles. Several women are leading prominent banking institutions.”

Pandemic has induced flexibility, which has provided an impetus to the number of females returning to work as it allows them to manage their priorities better, he adds. “At DBS, we have introduced a 60:40 work model. As part of this ‘Future of Work’ initiative, a large part of our workforce can work remotely for up to 40% of their time,” says Poduri.

National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC), has recruited its first all-female Engineering Executive Trainees (EETs) batch to reaffirm its stand on diversity. The Engineering graduates were selected based on their performance in GATE 2021 in Electrical, Mechanical, Electronics and Instrumentation disciplines.

Offering incentives

IBM provides a one-year training programme to all employees to get them up-to-date with the latest technologies, adds Rastogi. “This further reduces any disparity amongst male and female employees, as all of them start their professional journey on the same page,” she says.

Incentives include allowing young parents to take their child with them on official trips, says Rastogi. “We pay for the child’s ticket, stay and a caretaker as well. We also have a ‘Charisma’ programme, which enables parents working from home to engage their children in productive activities. The incentive of ‘Coach on call’ allows mothers of children with any issues to discuss the situation with experts. ‘Listening circles’ are forums utilised mainly by women to discuss their daily problems with each other,” she adds.

Poduri says, “We offer benefits like work from home option of up to 100% for six months for parents with a newborn or adopted child, and even for primary caregivers supporting a family member who is critically ill or injured or needing end-of-life care. We also offer benefits like ‘24 Response App’, an emergency assistance app,” he adds.

To support the women workforce, NTPC adheres to policies like Child Care Leave with Pay, Maternity Leave, Sabbatical Leave and NTPC Special Child Care Leave on adoption of a child/delivering child through surrogacy.

Challenging sectors

Real estate has been a male-dominated field, which is gradually changing its face. Suneet Singh, vice-president (marketing), Gulshan Group, Noida, says that awareness regarding specialised courses in real estate still draws males, which is amongst the biggest hiccups in increasing the female workforce.

“At the ground level, real estate deals with labour class and the channel partner community. Since both these groups constitute majorly males, there are few opportunities to bring about a change. At the executive and senior level, we are facing issues in the form of lack of available skilled female candidates,” she says. Singh adds that recruitments drives at institutes offering specialised courses in real estate witness a weak male-female ratio, which adds to the problems.

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