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Catalyst India WRC conducted the first of a three-part series of virtual discussion forums, on Reintegrating Women into the Workplace Successfully on the 12th of June 2014. The panelists who participated in the webinar were: Archana Sasan, Legal Executive Director, Dell, India; Jaya Virwani, Diversity and Inclusiveness Leader, EY GTH/GSS India; Divya Agarwal, Diversity Lead, Unilever (South Asia) and Ruma Rao, Senior Manager (HR), Tata Group.

The basis of this event was Catalyst's new tool, Making Change in India Inc.: Tool 3—Reintegrating Women Into the Workplace Successfully. This tool addresses the barriers that women face while returning to work after a career break, including logistical hurdles and performance expectations.

The webinar was moderated by Aarti Shyamsunder, Director, Research, Catalyst India WRC. It started off with how working women are still the primary care-givers at home and as a result, have a lot more interruptions in their careers – both short-term leaves of absence and long-term career breaks. Women in India leave the workforce more often than those in other Asian countries and emerging markets. Organizations that can stem this tide can reap rewards that translate into economic impact even at the national level.

The panelists shared various initiatives that are implemented in their organizations in order to reintegrate women to the workforce. These programmes focused not just on the women (and building their confidence with respect to skill-building and support) but also on organizational infrastructure and culture changes that are critical to the successful reintegration of such talent.

Some of the initiatives that were discussed were:

  • “Returnships” – Internships which use short-term (6-month) projects for women who were on a break and would like to re-enter the corporate world

  • Networking programmes for young business women

  • Building a culture of work-life integration, including flexible work arrangements

The discussion then went on to the challenges faced by companies and their solutions.

Instances of challenges faced were:

  • Identifying the women who were interested in getting back to work after a break

  • Ensuring that these talent pools have the technical and knowledge competence required

Solutions to those challenges were:

  • Having a common online portal specifically dedicated to these women and using a sound, multistage selection processes consistent with the rest of the workforce

  • Employee referral programs

  • Providing e-learning to women on break

  • Dedicated on-boarding and training

  • Mentors and guides      

Other key success factors that can ensure successful reintegration of women after career breaks include:

  • The role of a guide and a mentor

  • The importance of engaging men in activities related to reintegration of women to the workforce

  • Ensuring senior leader buy-in by focusing on small attempts at first, and building on these successes for the future

  • Overcoming resistance based on the short-term costs of reintegration programs and flex work arrangements by focusing on the long-term benefits and demonstrated successes

  • The importance of a fair and objective performance management system which doesn’t penalize women for having been on break

For further details about this event, contact [email protected].

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