Back to work: Why companies should upskill their female workforce after a maternity break

The quintessential corporate woman walks the tightrope in her bid to do justice to both her professional and personal commitments. Here’s why the Indian enterprise ought to facilitate reskilling and upskilling women back from a maternity break.

Mar 09th 2018

The World Economic Forum, in its 2017 global gender gap report, reveals that India ranks a dismal 108 out of 144 countries – well below smaller economies like Botswana and Bangladesh.

Although the Indian enterprise, spearheaded by the IT sector, is finally opening up to getting more women on board, the process of re-joining work and getting back into the grind following a maternity break remains an uphill task.

CIO India gives you a dekko at the exponential rate at which women are taking up in-demand certifications, the tech skills that drive women, and what organizations are doing to ensure that their women workforce is upskilled and kept on par with the rest of the organization.

The most sought-after tech skills

Simplilearn, a company facilitating IT professionals to sign up for in-demand courses and learn various technical skills and languages, reveals that some of the tech courses which are seeing a preference from women learners include data analytics, digital marketing, web development, DevOps, and agile.

Kashyap Dalal, Chief Business Officer and co-founder of Simplilearn shares that there are two major ways in which an in-demand certification can help someone restart their career after a break.

First, someone looking for a job after a career break tends to be low on confidence. Taking up a course and getting an in-demand certification is something that can boost confidence and also makes one feel charged up by having achieved this successfully.

“We have seen a 200 percent year-on-year increase in women learners who opt for our digital tech courses. If we look at all our courses, there is a 100 percent YoY growth in women learners. So, clearly there is rapid growth in women looking at up-skilling themselves,” says Dalal.

Second, re-starting after a career break is also a great time to potentially re-align one’s career and take a call on which direction to grow in. “35 percent of all our women learners are looking at joining back work after a career break. So this is definitely strong validation of how certifications help a person get back into their careers,” he adds.

What organizations are doing to bridge the gap

There are numerous best practices adopted by various organizations in the Indian enterprise. Some companies, like Sutherland, are looking at buddy and mentoring initiatives to plug the knowledge gap. A buddy is assigned to women on long leave especially during maternity leave. This buddy shares both knowledge and organizational updates and hence ensures high engagement levels.

Some companies are using bridge programs to address the knowledge gap. Once women get back into the mainstream, they first go through an orientation program to come up to speed.

Harita Gupta, Global Head – Enterprise Product Support at Sutherland says: “As part of the diversity program, we have Career 2.0 – Return to work for women employees who have left Sutherland on a green channel. We have reached out to them and have set up a helpline to capture responses indicating interest to re-join and address queries if any.” So far the company has shortlisted eight selects with another 48 women expressing an interest to re-join.

In addition to this, Gupta says that Sutherland also conducts frequent round table discussions with women and this serves as an open forum for them to discuss any concern. The company has invested in online learning platforms which enable continuous learning.

Mphasis, for instance, has organized a week-long campaign named ‘Diversity Week 2018’ that aims to celebrate diversity and inclusion at the workplace across multiple domains.

“At Mphasis we value and work towards creating a gender diverse workforce. We help women employees by providing mentorship and offer career counselling as well. We do see a lot of women employees upskilling and re-skilling themselves in order to stay relevant and move ahead in their career,” says Meenu Bhambhani, Vice President and Head - corporate social responsibility at Mphasis.

And it’s heartening to see the situation in the startup ecosystem being no different. Re-iterating the need for organizations to invest in women wanting to advance their career paths, Alex Suh, data analyst and Executive VP at TrueBalance says: “Women with a discontinued career due to maternity can find job opportunities through outplacement services. Many women find such programs motivating and encouraging. Most importantly, through these they can gain resources to pursue entrepreneurship.”

With a considerable fraction of the enterprise believing that women can be more focused and career-oriented compared to their male counterparts, it’s about time India Inc. gives its women employees all that they need to re-join work following a hiatus.