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Gender-balanced Workforce Ensures Better Utilization of Country's Human Resources A company hiring women professionals needs to provide certain basic facilities and infrastructure that would encourage them to stay on

By Priya Krishnan

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With greater numbers of qualified and deserving women joining the workforce, many corporate companies are gradually trying to ensure gender balance at the workplace and thus make it more vibrant. Efforts at a better gender-balance by all employers can ensure a more productive population as the economy taps the under-utilized talent pool of women. It was not so even a decade ago.

Recently, IT major Accenture announced its endeavor to have an equilibrium at the workplace, by introducing a gender-balanced workforce with a 50:50 ratio. It has set itself a target of 2025 to achieve this goal. According to a study by Sodexo, the Paris-based food services and facilities management company, between 2010 and 2012, the employee engagement rate of gender-balanced teams around the world increased by an average of four percentage points, against an average of one percentage point for unbalanced teams.

Similar findings show a correlation between gender diversity and other business metrics, including consumer satisfaction and operating profits. The study also concluded that a 60:40 male-female ratio can target optimal results and productivity.

Facilities for New Mothers

But to ensure such results, a company hiring women professionals needs to provide certain basic facilities and infrastructure that would encourage them to stay on. A primary concern of female employees is how to strike a work-life balance after childbirth or during pregnancy.

There are instances of working women in India delaying pregnancy or even postponing marriage to avoid a gap in their CVs early in their careers. That could change if companies use the new Maternity Benefits Bill to bolster their women-friendly policies.

A case in point is Indrani Mitra, who had to take a break from her job with an MNC after she realized that her baby was falling sick regularly because the nanny at home was not maintaining proper hygiene.

"My parents were old and lived in a different city, and it was not possible for them to come over and stay with me. I have no in-laws and my husband travelled a lot on work. I had no option, no quality childcare facilities in Kolkata, and hence took the decision to take a break from work to raise my child," said Indrani.

Just a few extra weeks of paid maternity leave for both biological and adoptive parents may not be enough. But, initiatives such as flexi-hours during and post-pregnancy, and in-house childcare or playschools for toddlers can help women strike a better work-life balance, leading to a more productive and gender-balanced team.

Benefits of Daycare

Such initiatives not only help to enhance the quality of life for the female and male employees, but also help enhance the net productivity of a workforce and ensure that it is a happier one. Without having to worry about the well-being of a child who is left at home with a nanny or relatives, new parents can be a lot more at ease.

A professionally-managed childcare facility, whether within the campus or off-site, has helped many corporates retain their female workforce and encouraged them to put in their maximum for the company that takes care of them and the apples of their eyes. For parents who are about to decide on a childcare facility, the priority is always the quality of the service, and its affordability. This is when the employers can step in -- by zeroing down on a childcare format that works the best for its employees.

Undoubtedly, more and more companies in India are creating the right environment and providing incentives to achieve the gender targets meaningfully. Clauses of the Maternity Bill have also given it a much needed leg up.

Gains Are Real

The gains from diversity are for real, say HR experts. Some studies show that diverse teams are functionally more productive, creative and profitable than non-diverse teams. But, why?

When it comes to problem-solving and innovation, a team of diverse individuals move away from the easy go-to answers. Instead, they draw on their different experiences to come out with more out-of-the-box ideas.

Much of the increase in innovation around diversity is often attributed to a positive increase in individuals' expectations of themselves.

We're better when we're invested in working as part of a diverse workforce, where every opinion matters and every voice is included.

Priya Krishnan

CEO, Founding Years Learning Solution

Priya Krishnan is the Founder & CEO of Founding Years Learning Solutions, parent company of The Little Company and KLAY Prep Schools & Daycare, together India’s largest chain of Premium Corporate  Daycares with presence in Delhi NCR; Bangaluru; Mumbai, Hyderabad & Guntur.
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