Why industry needs to focus on women power

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National Skills Network – NSN is happy to introduce a series of write-ups on skill development, training and employment by T. Muralidharan, eminent columnist and author whose writings have positively influenced and impacted youth in India. In this guest article*, T. Muralidharan, Chairman, TMI Group MD, C&K Management Ltd, emphasizes on the need to include more women in the workforce by addressing issues related to the nature of workplaces and handling issues with migration.

According to the All India Survey on Higher Education (2014 -15), carried out by the Ministry of HRD, there are 15.4 million girls enrolled in higher education, constituting 46% of the total enrolment. And, over 10 million are in undergraduate courses. At the end of that academic year, more than three million girls passed out of the final year! Now the question is — where are the three million jobs for these women?

women in the workforceLet us also look into the findings of the report of the Labour Bureau, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Government of India, on youth employment and unemployment for 2013-14. The report declared that the unemployment rate among educated youth is on the rise; among every three persons who is a graduate or above, there is one unemployed. It also brings to light two issues pertaining to women: 

  • The labour force participation rate (LFPR) is low. This means that the number of women working or seeking jobs or are available for work is low.
  • The unemployment rate is high. That is, the number of women who did not get work despite being available for it, is high.
  • Employers should appreciate the unique set of values that women bring to the workplace.

The irony is that while more and more girls are passing out of college, fewer and fewer of them are seeking jobs or getting hired.

The big two causes and solutions

So, let us discuss two major causes and explore potential solutions.

Workplaces unfriendly to women

In India, a majority of the available jobs is suitable or, at least, is perceived to be suitable for men only. Consequently, women limit themselves to a few job roles which are stereotyped to be suitable for them. They are restrained by their families from seeking challenging job roles, even though they may be competent enough. The corporate sector is therefore at risk of losing their skills and contributions. Changing workplaces to make them women-friendly begins by transforming the way women are perceived at work by male colleagues and bosses. Women bring in a unique set of benefits to the workplace; employers should learn to recognize and value them. This also brings in a few challenges which the employer should keep in mind while setting expectations.

Women friendly policies like flexible work timings, separate washrooms and work from home options will encourage more women to join the workforce.

These extra measures are really worth the effort, considering the benefits women bring in to the workplace — a sense of purpose, focus on outcomes, work discipline and so on. This problem is acute in the MSME sector. While large companies and MNCs are making significant progress at creating women friendly workplaces, the MSME sector, especially the manufacturing companies are far behind.

About 90 per cent of the new jobs created in the Indian economy is in the MSME sector. The sector is also facing a serious talent crunch. In this backdrop, MSMEs cannot afford to ignore the women workforce, eager to make meaningful contributions at the workplace. Our experience in hiring women who had taken a career break showed that they were keen to perform and were willing to work at a very economic compensation package than men with comparable competence and work experience.

So the MSME sector and the corporate sector should venture and try out women who want to get back to work after a career break.

Apprehensions associated with migration

Sometime back, a client of ours asked us to source 1,000 women candidates for work at their assembly plant in Chennai. Given the numbers, we had to mobilise women from the rural parts of Tamil Nadu.

The biggest learning we took home from the experience was that while women are as smart as men and are eager to participate in work, when the job involves relocation, concerns of parents curb the aspirations of the potential workers.

Thoughts of safety, relocation costs and lifestyle differences discourage parents from allowing their daughters to relocate for work. Eventually, the girls end up letting go of good opportunities or not seeking them.

This issue can be addressed by setting up hostels dedicated to women working for a particular company or women from a particular region. These hostels should be partly-funded by the government to minimise the cost of living and increase savings.

Providing high-level security for the girls in these hostels and arranging ‘hostel to work’ bus services will mitigate the concerns of parents. When parents visit these hostels and notice that their daughter would be spending her time with other girls from the same region or office, they would be more open to the idea of relocation.

*Earlier version of this article was published in “Education Plus, The Hindu”. It is now republished with permission from the author.

Picture courtesy: https://www.policyx.com/

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