After micromanaging unparalleled professional as well as personal workloads, it’s high time women got back on the job, writes MINAKSHI MISHRA.
The few women who have fought and won over the obstacles of gender and societal obligations, mental conditioning and an unfriendly work environment, are just a minuscule percentage of the Indian population. For the rest, the road is long and narrow.
The COVID-19 pandemic hit every sector and resulted in an unprecedented loss of employment. A large percentage of women also lost their jobs or struggled to balance work and home.
According to World Bank data (June 2020), the percentage of women in labour markets has declined in the last two decades in India. In fact, India’s female labour force participation (FLFP) is the lowest in South Asia. It is alarming that from 30.3 per cent in 1990, India’s FLFP dropped to 20.3 per cent in 2020, lower than that of Pakistan and Afghanistan at 22.2 per cent and 2.8 per cent, respectively.
So, what are the conditions that hinder the progress of employment of women in our country?
Lack of higher education, except for the privileged few, is a major factor. Also, there is a need for proper implementation of legal rights of ownership of property. Women either have little knowledge of legal rights or prefer not to pursue them.
The lack of a safe work environment is another major factor behind the low percentage of women’s workforce, for they have to think multiple times before joining or taking up a career outside their home state. Gender equality is a far cry in India.
COVID marred the entire year of 2020, which took a toll on working women worldwide. Conditions worsened with the closure of schools and daycare centres. The responsibility of caregiving fell disproportionately on the women, thereby, compounding the complications in getting back to work after a sabbatical or an unplanned break. In our country, despite government initiatives and laws, many workplaces are not lenient towards women who need more flexibility, which only worsened during the pandemic.
But, it is not only during the pandemic times. Women have had difficulties always, including wage discrimination, job insecurity, unsafe work environment, etc. They always have to maintain the work-home balance impeccably.
So, what could be the solution? Support at the policy level and changes to rectify the inequalities and inclusion of more women in the workforce. What goes without saying is the need for safety and zero tolerance for sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
Getting back to work after a break is a challenge that needs more discussion. Workplaces, including private and government ones, have various schemes, programmes, and detailed rules which offer relief to parents in the form of maternity and paternity leaves. However, for those returning to work after a break for any other reason, there is hardly any provision. Here are some pointers which might help bolster one’s confidence, and help meet the demands of the industry they seek to join.
• Be honest: Honesty counts, so one should never hide their career break. Doing a self-study about the industry or organisation they are seeking to join is highly recommended. A transparent and confident attitude is the key to ace the interview. One must speak about what they gained during the career break, like learning a new skill or devoting time to family. Showing their potential employer that there have been positive outcomes during their time away from work will work in their favour.
• Be confident: Indian society often considers homemakers a non-working category. The scenario is worse if a woman has recently left a job. But, she need not discount the value of her career gap or be sorry about taking care of young children or old parents. It is heartening to note that recent observations by social analysts have acknowledged that the contribution of stay-at-home women is significant. So, women who are looking to get back to work must pep up their self-confidence and let that be their USP to get back!
• Rejig the resume: One must make sure that one’s self-confidence and personality is reflected in the resume. So, updating the resume, i.e., including current industry terminologies, stressing on skill sets relevant to the job, etc., must be top priority. One must also look into what skills the employers are looking for, and check how that aligns with the candidate’s experience.
• Prepare for the interview: Take time to read about current issues in the industry you wish to join. Brush up your knowledge and go through probable questions. The internet can be of more help than you imagine. You must be confident, you may not have all the answers, but you can clinch the job with your confident attitude.
• Rebuilding networks: Now is the right time to rejoin your professional network online or offline. Meet your old buddies or plan a get-together in any of the new cafés in town. You will marvel at what a cup of coffee can do. Spruce up your social networking profile and update LinkedIn. You can also register for online courses and webinars to gain confidence.