8 Step Guide for Employers to Empower Women in India's Workforce
By: Smiti Bhatt Deorah, Co-founder & COO, Advantage Club | Tuesday, 7 November 2023
The talk about gender equity today is at a critical juncture. In India’s rapidly growing economy, a lot of work has been done in terms of parity, but there are miles to go before we can truly claim to be an unbiased nation. As we talk about how employee benefits help Indian women move up at work, here are some shocking stats that show why this is so important:
- According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2023, India ranks 127th out of 146 countries in terms of gender equality.
- Only 19.2% of women are in the labor force compared to 70.1% of men, as per the latest statistics from the International Labour Organisation
These numbers are not just disheartening but a call to action. This disparity is a clear sign that we need to take action to empower women in India’s workplaces. While some cities have progressed in terms of both men and women being of the working class, as we go down the tiers, smaller towns still have to adopt acceptability for women to work. The expectation for most Indian families today is still that the woman should take care of the household, children, etc, leaving little leeway for them to make their own choices for working full-time. One effective way to fix this challenge is by offering flexible benefits, allowing women to choose the benefits that suit them best, and giving them more control over their work-life balance and overall career progression.
Let’s dive into how employee benefits can be a powerful force for change, tearing down barriers and propelling women to success in India’s workplaces. Employee benefits are not just tools; they are engines of transformation, propelling women toward equality and empowerment in India’s workforce.
1. Flexible Work Arrangements
One of the most impactful employee benefits for women is flexible work arrangements. Flexibility in work hours, telecommuting options, support for late-night travel to/from work, and job-sharing not only enhance work-life balance but also enable women to pursue leadership roles without sacrificing their familial commitments. In a recent survey by FlexJobs, 75% of Indian women cited work flexibility as crucial for career advancement.
2. Childcare Support
Childcare support is indispensable for women striving to balance career aspirations with parenting responsibilities. Some companies have gone as far as providing on-site childcare centers or subsidies in daycare costs, to alleviate the stress of finding reliable childcare services. The World Bank reports that India lost over 25 million women from the workforce due to a lack of childcare support.
3. Paid Parental Leave
Paid parental leave policies empower new mothers and encourage fathers to share caregiving responsibilities. Such policies support women in maintaining their career trajectories during critical life transitions. The need for gender-neutral caregiving policies is underscored by the fact that only 18% of countries globally offer paid paternity leave, as per the World Policy Analysis Center.
4. Mentorship and Sponsorship Programs
Mentorship and sponsorship programs connect women with experienced mentors and sponsors who provide guidance and advocate for their career growth. Research by Catalyst indicates that women with mentors are more likely to receive promotions, making these programs a valuable asset in women’s professional development.
5. Equal Pay and Pay Transparency
Companies can champion gender equality by committing to pay equity and transparency. Conducting pay equity audits and establishing transparent salary structures help identify and rectify wage gaps. This commitment is vital, especially when women in India earn only one-fifth of their male counterparts’ income.
6. Health and Wellness Initiatives
Comprehensive health benefits, including access to family planning services, maternal health programs, and mental health support, contribute to women’s overall well-being. A recent study in JAMA Network Open found that workplace wellness programs positively impact women’s health outcomes.
7. Professional Development Opportunities
Investing in professional development opportunities, such as leadership training and career development programs, equips women with the skills and knowledge needed to advance in their careers. This ensures that women are well-prepared to step into leadership roles.
8. Inclusive Company Culture
Fostering an inclusive company culture is fundamental. Organizations that promote an inclusive environment where all voices are heard and valued, attract and retain top female talent. Employee resource groups (ERGs), women/new mothers support groups, and diversity and inclusion initiatives play a pivotal role in building such cultures.
The Business Case for Empowering Women
Supporting women's career advancement through employee benefits is not just a matter of social responsibility; it's a smart business move. Companies prioritizing gender diversity and inclusivity experience several tangible benefits:
- Enhanced Innovation: Diverse teams bring a wealth of perspectives, leading to more innovative solutions.
- Better Decision-Making: Gender-diverse leadership teams consider a broader range of viewpoints in decision-making.
- Improved Employee Engagement: When women feel supported and valued, their engagement and commitment to the company increases.
- Attraction of Top Talent: Organizations known for their commitment to gender equality are more attractive to top female talent. Women who are supported in their organizations tend to attrite less too, as there is uncertainty about the same support being offered in their next job.
- Increased Profitability: Research consistently shows that gender-diverse companies are more profitable and financially resilient.
The role of employee benefits in empowering women in India's workforce is pivotal. By offering flexible work arrangements, childcare support, paid parental leave, mentorship programs, and other inclusive benefits, companies can create a more level playing field.
These benefits extend beyond individual careers, benefiting the organization as a whole. In embracing these changes, companies take significant steps towards achieving gender equality in leadership positions and reaping the rewards of a more diverse and inclusive workforce. It's not just about doing what's right; it's also about doing what's smart for business and for India's future.
About the Author: Smiti Deorah, COO and co-founder of Advantage Club has extensive B2B account management and relationship-building experience, having worked for Microsoft for over two years. She currently manages sales, marketing, and technology at Advantage Club.