The last few years have seen a huge resurgence in conversations about women returning to work. The concept is not new – generations have seen women drop out of the workforce for years to care for their children and their homes; some returned, some couldn’t quite make it back.
Like with everything else in the world, digital technology, and the Internet has opened new opportunities for millions of women – either as job opportunities or as online support systems and job boards.
One such leading online platform is JobsForHer, a connecting portal that is designed specifically to help women restart their careers after a break.
We chatted with Neha Bagaria, Founder and CEO of JobsForHer to find out how she channelled her personal experiences as a restarter to help other women.
Neha: I was the usual career woman, and when the children came along, I decided to take a break to raise them – the break ended up being more than 3 years long.
During this personal journey, I became aware of the various difficulties a woman faces in order to re-enter the workforce. There are innumerable accomplished and qualified women around me who just stopped working for personal reasons such as marriage, motherhood or elder care, and then never returned to the workforce.
I started delving into the reasons behind this female brain drain, and it became clear that there are many re-entry challenges that need to be addressed in India.
Something as basic as school pick-up becomes a huge issue – most schools get over at 2-3 pm; offices go on till 6 pm at the very least – unless you have someone to take care of your child during this time how can you hold down a full-time job?
This is just one situation – women returnees not only need flexibility but also need help to regain their confidence and retraining to enter the workforce properly.
On the other side of the spectrum, companies and employers need to overcome gender biases and change cultural mindsets.
My own experience made me determined to enable other women to restart their careers and connect them with whatever they require to do so. And this idea grew to become JobsForHer, I founded it on International Women's Day, March 2015.
Neha: I’ve always been a social entrepreneur at heart; during my last semester at college, I founded my first company Paragon to introduce the Advanced Placement Program in India, and I also became the College Board Representative of India.
When marriage brought me to Bangalore, I started working with Kemwell, a pharmaceutical services company, in the fields of HR, Finance and Marketing strategy.
The growth and development that I experienced at Kemwell were immense, but social entrepreneurship was my first love and after I took a few years out for the kids; it all just fell into place. I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do. But apart from my gut feeling, I had enough experience to understand the gap that existed in the market and how I could fill it.
Neha: Well yes, when I decided to start JobsForHer, there were a lot of challenges - to put it mildly.
Firstly, I had started working after a long career break and untangling motherhood responsibilities from work demands was difficult. It was a challenge to figure out how to divide my time between my kids and my new business.
I hadn’t yet started working full-time, and I felt that not picking up my children from school was a deal-breaker. I was fighting against the traditional stereotyping where women are made to believe they are the sole caretakers.
The last time I had founded and run a company was 12 years ago, and I didn’t have kids then so the challenges of balancing work-life was different at that time.
Professionally, there was also the challenge that my past work experience was in education and pharma, which was diametrically opposite to the fast-paced rollercoaster world of tech start-ups.
However, slowly but surely, I started piecing it all together. I started with strong advisors to fill in the gaps in tech, HR and to build a scalable start-up. This gave me immense confidence in my idea, and I felt I could achieve the scalability I had envisioned.
Neha: I think we are our biggest hinderances. Through my entrepreneurial journey, I have realized how often women tend to hold themselves back because of fear.
It is so important to recognize our fears and to name them; only then can we find a path to overcome them. Whenever I am at a crossroads, I ask myself this question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” It is critical that we don’t let our fears hold ourselves back and stride on, confident of figuring things out - eventually.
Neha: I strongly feel that for a woman entrepreneur to succeed in the competitive business landscape, it is imperative that we become comfortable giving equal importance to our careers as we do to our other obligations, roles, and responsibilities. And for that, we need to build a thick skin and a strong support system.
Because until we don’t, we won’t be able to create the ecosystem required to support this challenging journey to the top.
We will need to rally the troops and have our support structure firmly in place - parents, in-laws, extended family, friends, and yes, husband too. We will need to stop caring about people who don’t understand and help the people we care about to understand us. We will need to make sacrifices and compromises about being there for everyone all the time and having everything perfect. And we will need to stop feeling apologetic about it.
Neha: More of the same! We have come a long way in the last 3 and half years. We have made huge progress in changing the mindsets of both the women and companies. Women, so that they feel confident about the gap in their resumes and portray it in the right light and companies, so that now they are not only taking back a huge number of women returnees but companies like Dell, Epsilon, Facebook, Diageo, Sapient, Credit Suisse, etc. are working with us closely to reach out to this candidate pool.
It gives me enormous satisfaction when I hear of women restarting their careers through JobsForHer. We’ve seen success stories of women who restarted their careers at companies ranging from large enterprises to SME’s. I see them happy and confident and excited about regaining their financial independence and a sense of self-worth. In fact, we have launched an e-book called “Way Back to the Way Forward” to chronicle some of their restarter journeys. Whenever I read this book and delve into their challenges and achievements, it makes everything feel worthwhile.
Neha: Working with SoaringEagles has been a great experience!
Since they offer a wide range of professional development courses and JobsForHer is India's largest portal for women returning to work post-sabbatical, we found a perfect partnership.
Run by a fantastic and empathetic team, the courses they run are perfect for women returnees to reskill themselves before dipping their toes back into the professional world.
Neha: Not let guilt and fear hold me back from dreaming big!
Neha and her team are doing a commendable job of helping women get back to work after a break. We wish them all the success because therein lies the success of many women returning to work.
If you would like to share your entrepreneurial journey, then drop us a quick note. We would love to hear from you. If you want a sounding board to grow your business fearlessly, click on the Request Consultation button above.
2020 is coming to an end and what a year it’s been! The global pandemic has really challenged us in so many ways and it’s been hard for many of us to feel in control as the crisis just drags on. Our businesses have taken a hit but we know that there are many around us who have been hit even harder.
It’s natural then for many business leaders to feel guilty about the hard decisions they’ve had to take in terms of layoffs, closures and disruptions in service. A client of mine had to let go of a senior employee in the US and he knew this meant that the employee had to go back to his home country and his entire life would get disrupted. He was also worried that the employee would no longer have health cover to take care of the special needs of his child. A friend who is the CHRO of a large organisation was distraught when a young employee passed away due to COVID and he felt he couldn’t do anything to save her.
Guilt is an unsettling emotion to deal with. But it’s also a sign that you’re a conscientious leader. While there are many things that are out of your control, one way of dealing with this guilt when it hits you is to re-evaluate and improve the way you approach your employees and company, and demonstrate compassionate leadership in difficult circumstances.
Here are 5 ways in which you can do this:
If you have a small team, it’s possible for you to do so yourself. If you have a large employees base, put together small cross-functional teams to spread out and listen to the wider group. This will help you plan your initiatives better.
When you have no choice but to implement furloughs, reduced hours, or pay cuts, don’t delegate sharing the news to HR - it feels demoralizing, disrespectful, and lacks empathy. If you are responsible for the decision, it is you who should be sharing it. This sends a clear message to not just the people who are impacted but also the others around them and support the morale of the team.
If some of your decisions have gone wrong and negatively affected others, take remedial action as soon as you know or can and do it as publicly as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and then communicate new developments frequently and consistently. Decisions can go either r way based on the limited information that we operate on – you are not expected to be right all the time. But how you own up and make amends is what your team and customers are looking at.
Try and see what benefits can be retained even when someone goes on a furlough or pay cut. Help the ones who’ve been laid off to find new jobs. Provide career transition support wherever possible.
People respond to that. They connect with you and they trust you when you’re being the best version of you. Talk about how you balance your own personal and work commitments. Talk about your own challenges and encourage sharing of tips and resources for managing workload, scheduling and so on. You don’t have to have a stoic mask all the time. Let people know that you also struggle sometimes and that’s okay. That’s being human.
So, to sum it up, it’s understandable if you as a leader are struggling with guilty feelings as you see the disruptions and struggles that the Covid-19 crisis is causing your employees and colleagues, sometimes specifically as a result of your own actions. But if you reframe your feelings of guilt as an opportunity to consciously and thoughtfully make the best decisions possible, communicate clearly, and behave with compassion and concern for both your employees and yourself, then you can help steer their teams and organizations toward better times.
If you want to talk about this, just click on Request Consultation and pick a convenient time for discussion or send me a WhatsApp message using the button above.
Many times, when I bring up coaching with business leaders and owners, they react by saying that I’m doing well. I don’t think I need a coach.
To my mind, there are two possible reasons for this reaction – one, they are not aware about what real coaching is and its benefits, and two, they are not ready to have a hard look at themselves and see what’s not working. They may be afraid of what they might uncover and are happier just coasting along till they are forced to confront these issues.
I always make an effort to explain what real coaching is and how it’s different from having a mentor or guide or just reading self-help books. I also make it a point to share that coaching is not about solving problems. It is about unblocking the realisation of your potential. You can do and achieve much more than what you are doing currently just by getting out of your own way. A coach helps you get out of your own way and go after those big hairy audacious goals.
Ask yourself this
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of ambition, it’s a sign of hunger for bigger impact, it’s a sign of courage to work on oneself.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t need a coach…
Click on the Request Consultation button above for a discovery call.
To be truly listened to is an amazing experience, partly because it is so rare! When another person is totally with you – leaning in, interested in every word, eager to empathize – you feel seen and understood. When people feel that they are really being listened to, they open up more as they feel safe and secure and the trust between the parties grows.
Unfortunately, most people do not listen at a very deep level as they are preoccupied with the challenges of their fast-paced life. As a result, most conversations tend to skim on the surface.
The absence of real listening is especially prevalent at work. Under pressure to get the job done, we listen for the minimum of what we need to know so that we can move on to the next fire that needs fighting. So, what’s the consequence of this? Everyone is talking, no on is listening. As a result, employee engagement has become a serious issue in organisations today.
This is becoming a bigger problem in this COVID scenario as employees are dispersed and the conversations are very transactional and brief. Leaders seem to have become busier and more distracted in recent times.
How often are you as a leader distracted in a conversation or a meeting with your team? How often are you as a leader not psychologically present when you are virtually with your team? How often do you cancel, interrupt or shorten meetings with your people in favour of some other stakeholder, priority or task? How often do you make your people wait, ask, or even hope for your leadership? Ironically, now more than ever, leaders need to be deeply and continuously connected with their teams.
What your team needs right now is authentic and unequivocal leadership presence. So, turn off the noise in your head. Turn off the noise from your technology. Focus your mind and your time on the people you lead and they, in turn, will follow and support your leadership efforts.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to take the time to connect, to show that you care about your employees as people. Listening deeply will also help you understand what their challenges and expectations, and gives you a chance to share what your intentions and goals in a way that everyone can be aligned.
Listening is a skill that you can gain from training and practice. And who better to learn if from than coaches. Effective coaches tend to be gifted listeners and they hone their listening skills to reach a high level of proficiency. This enables us coaches to reach the inner recesses of your mind and help you get those deep insights.
In the book, Co-Active Coaching, Henry and Karen Kimsey-House explain the three levels of listening and how the art of listening can be cultivated.
Level 1 listening is an interaction where the primary focus of you as the listener is on your own thoughts, opinions, judgments, and feelings. You relate the words you hear to your own experiences or needs. For example, if we are buying a car, we will be listening at Level 1 to the salesperson to see how the car features will fit our needs and budget.
Level 2 listening takes the communication one step further. It involves paying attention to the tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. As you filter out your internal chatter and distractions from the environment, you are able to tune in to the meaning of the words, choose a way to respond, and assess the effect of the response on the speaker.
Level 3 listening brings an entirely new state of awareness to the conversation. It involves doing everything at Level 2, plus using your intuition and being open to receiving more information in any form that it presents itself. If you get a hunch, for example, while listening to someone, you could bring it up without being attached to it. Without insisting on being right, observe the effect it has on the speaker and be aware of where the conversation goes next.
For instance, you may say: “I understand that you are happy with the results, but I have a feeling that you have something else on your mind.” The response may be, “No, not really,” or “Yes, actually, I wanted to tell you about this issue that came up with our project.” It is irrelevant if you are right or wrong; what is important is the effect on the conversation.
So, there you have it – why it is important for you as a leader to hone your listening skills and how you can enhance your depth of listening. The art of listening takes time to develop, but it can be practiced daily. It builds trust and understanding and contributes significantly to your effectiveness as a leader.
If you want to discuss further, just schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking this link above.
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