New Delhi: Renewing your career after motherhood is a challenging milestone; one that presents several dilemmas for women as professionals.
Quite often it is the woman who has to bear the brunt of sacrificing her career post marriage and subsequently childbirth. In today's age, issues like renewing career, providing maternity benefits and child-friendly workstations or facilities for working mums are of importance.
Women make up 48 percent of the Indian population but have not benefitted equally from India's rapid economic growth. Sixty-five percent of women are literate as compared to 80 percent of men. India has among the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world, says a report by World Bank Group published last year. Female child mortality is still a grave concern, with over 239,000 girls under the age of 5 dying each year.
"About 40 per cent of working mothers want to quit jobs to raise their kids," noted a survey conducted by ASSOCHAM under the aegis of its Social Development Foundation. At the study conducted, ASSOCHAM Social Development Foundation had interacted with a total of about 500 working women including 200 working mothers in 10 cities of Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Chennai, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Lucknow, Mumbai and Pune during the course of the past fortnight to gauge their career related goals. A whooping 80 out of 200 respondents who are working mothers quoted motherhood and lack of quality time being spent with family were the primary reason to quit jobs.
At such a crucial juncture, what will it take to give a much-needed push and bolster women to return to career's post motherhood or even start a career is they hadn't before?
"My suggestion to women who want to get back to work is three-fold: Look for a role that excites you, and one in which your mind will stretch and learn new things. The personal cost of balancing work, life and children is tough, and beyond the very important role of financial independence, our jobs and careers nourish our minds and imaginations. Many women leave jobs, or struggle to keep them, after becoming mothers because of boring jobs, or ones in which they are not growing, don't seem worth the effort, if you are fortunate enough financially to have a choice not to work," believes Shreyasi Singh, Co-founder and CEO, Harappa Education.
Along with getting a strong picture of current skills and ambition which is required to sustain in a specific industry, a holistic approach of looking at the situation and evaluation will help a long way, say experts. This includes getting a strong understanding of your own skills and ambitions. What do you really want to do? What could help you get to the long-term future you can see for yourself?
"Start somewhere, don't wait for the perfect job. Figure out your non-negotiable, if that's commute from home, compensation or the industry/role you want. Or, is it flexible time schedules? For example, the post-Covid work environment, especially remote WFH, can really be an important enabler for working mothers. Don't be afraid to suggest, now of all times, the schedule that might work for you. Now more than ever, employers won't judge you. This can actually be a good time to experiment, especially if you didn't love the job you were in before. Keeping an open mind and stepping out of your comfort zone can be very powerful enablers in this phase," adds Singh.
The lockdown necessitated by the spread of COVID-19 has disrupted the normal life of people all around the world. While the situation is challenging for all, it specifically puts great demands on the women in the family, as they not only look after the work at home, but also at their respective offices.
It would not be an exaggeration to say that women are now doing two full-time jobs without even a weekend break. Indian women have always been multi-taskers and power-workers, balancing the needs of their family and job. Along with kids and family around in the same space, the work-life balance during the Covid-19 and amidst the lockdown has taken on a whole new meaning, agree experts.
"Managing kids, work and the household - within lockdown, and the anxieties on both personal life (health, lifestyle) and professional life (Working from home, anxiety about job), I have seen it manifest in my house, with my wife trying to navigate as a working woman, a mother and a wife. Stress is a natural consequence, and new experiences that can be tried out at home, can help counteract that. Be it working out as a family (with kids), or cooking as a family (encouraging kids to become little Masterchefs), or trying out online yoga - my wife has been at it since day one. Going through this experience has helped us/her assuage the stress effectively," says Irwin Anand, MD, Udemy India.
We find ourselves looking to pick up new skills, whether it's gardening, a musical instrument, or drawing/coding with kids in part because being challenged the right way can be a new source of delight for everyone! The coming weeks and months will shape the "new normal" in the day-to-day life of women, and I hope everyone understands how hard it is for them, and to support them however possible," adds Anand.