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.
Reema, a senior banking executive with 14 years of work experience, took 3 years off to take care of her son. Trying to return to work was stressful, to say the least!
“I bought into the rhetoric about diversity and helping working mothers! There is so much hype in the online media and the companies all say the right things, but on the ground, I had to endure some very personal comments from HR. I was a bit taken aback and then realised that the attitude that women returnees can be paid less and that they should be glad of whatever profile they get, is widespread.
“Personally, I also realised that my options are seriously limited and that I need to tone down my expectations – at least for the first year. Which is OK, I was expecting that; what’s not OK is the attitude.”
Reema’s experience was not exceptional.
While at senior policy level there is an evolved awareness of the benefits skilled women workforce bring to the table, and the need to create a supportive work culture for returnees, the finer nuances and details of the policies have yet to trickle down to the rest of the organisation.
A wide-ranging survey of publicly traded companies across 91 countries reported that “the presence of more female leaders in top positions of corporate management correlates with increased profitability of these companies.”
A women-inclusive board brings balance to company decisions as a diverse set of opinions lead to more innovative and effective problem-solving. Women have also proved to be better collaborators and mentors.
Stephen Mayne, a director of the Australian Shareholders Association, has spoken about leveraging women’s sensible and grounded approach in business as a way to improve corporate governance.
"Shareholders lose money in over-priced takeovers, and it's often the aggressive men [on the board] who want to dominate their opponent, and who are prepared to take bigger risks."
According to him, men are driven by their egos in the middle of a corporate raid, while women think more strategically and objectively.
For companies to unlock these women-centric benefits at the top, they have to make sure women remain at work at all levels of the organisation. Because the only way you will have women leaders is by creating an environment that nurtures them throughout their careers.
The latest report highlighting India’s poor record of female participation in the workforce – we are ranked 121 out of 131 countries by the International Labour Organisation – has set ablaze many online social forums.
While there is a wide range of complex motives that are at play around the country, no one can deny the biggest reason for women dropping out of the workforce has always been motherhood and marital pressures – whether she is in a village or in a corporate boardroom.
For women coming back to work after a few years, adding company policies such as flexible time management and on-site child care facilities are just the first step.
What is needed is long-term, organisation-wide strategy to uncover talent and make the workplace attractive to women returnees.
Developing effective strategies for attracting women returning to the workforce begins with understanding what motivates them to return, what women look for in a job and what they want from an employer after a career break.
With only around 24% of women returning to the same employer after a career break, employers that understand what women in this situation are looking for are positioned to attract the best talent.
The unspoken and passive bias against women – especially mothers – must be the first cultural shift that needs to be tackled.
Women across the world undertake more than their fair share of caregiving and child-rearing responsibilities. And unfortunately, somewhere along the way, it has become the norm for bosses to question a woman’s dedication to the job.
Changing this mindset will take generations, but maybe corporate India can become the flagbearer of this cultural change. One small way to aid this transition would be to ensure that fathers get some time off too.
Majority of women returning after a break, face decreased opportunity. A few years of a gap on their resume usually amounts to playing catch-up for years just to get to a position where the career break stops mattering.
An open-minded and transparent hiring policy would go a long way in ensuring that women are judged purely on their expertise and experience. There is also a need to ensure that fair salary structures are put into place that doesn’t end up indirectly penalising women returnees or taking advantage of their desire to restart their careers.
A transparent appraisal system that equates both male and female employees on common goals and KPIs is also needed to create an organisation that is perceived as fair to women.
A company with family-friendly policies is not just great for women but for all employees. Flexible work schedules, office crèche facilities, and maternity, as well as paternity leave, can go a long way in making the organisation an attractive place for all.
Corporates are taking the right path – from the generous maternity leave, and baby bonding bucks at Google to Accenture’s recognition of the needs of breastfeeding mothers to Mondelez’s women-only mentoring programmes – the biggest organisations across the globe have taken the lead. Our hope is that this trickles down and pushes corporate India to walk the talk on women’s issues as well.
There is no doubt that women returning from a career break remain ambitious and committed to developing their career; managers just need to see this potential and develop it for the long-term benefit of the organisation.
If your organisation is trying to improve its diversity ratio, then we can certainly help.
As a women-led team with hands-on experience working with returnees, we know what you need to do to motivate and attract the right talent for your company from this vast pool of skilled women. Click on the Request Consultation button above.
As anyone in HR would tell you, this is a continuous process; it is not a one-time solution or package that you can offer employees, but a long-term, deep-rooted organisational culture that ensures employees at all levels stay constantly engaged and motivated.
A big part of this process is career development.
Employees across the board, especially the millennials, understand that to grow and scale the corporate ladder they need to offer more value for money – i.e., additional skills, more experience or a mature and strategic thought process – some of these come with time and some need to be developed - but they all need the employer’s support.
Whether it is offering your team opportunities to stretch their minds and resources or giving them time to study further or offering in-house skill-building opportunities – the organisation is the first port of call for an employee’s career development. Almost all employees look internally for professional growth opportunities, and when they don’t find it, they eventually leave!
You are probably thinking – “hey, we know all this! But there is only so much we can do with our budgets and resources.”
Agreed! It is not our intention to teach you your job, what we hope to do instead is highlight some companies that are implementing this successful programme – to maybe leave you a bit inspired for your next L&D meeting!
So, without further ado, here are a few career development initiatives we really liked -
Why we like them: Huge investment in creating university-style learning environment and infrastructure for all employees.
All these three global giants have invested a serious amount of time, money and thought into developing huge learning centers for their employees.
While at Pixar the focus remains on fostering creative thinking, at the AT&T University the scope is broader, and they have achieved this by partnering with well-known online and physical universities; all employees can choose from a large variety of courses developed in partnership with Georgia Tech and Udacity Inc.
At the other end of the spectrum is Schneider Electric; they have created a learning center that is very specific to their domain and offers over 200 courses on energy efficiency and data centers.
Why we like them: The initiative lies with the employees, and it's not all about professional learning – the initiatives are really about what the employee wants not what’s best for the company.
Culture Amp has really given the responsibility of learning to the people along with the tools. They have two great programmes which can be implemented by companies of all sizes –
Coaching for Everyone – Every single employee is provided with sessions with an executive coach or a life coach at 6, 12 and 24 months and they can use these sessions for anything they like – professional or personal issues.
Learn Yourself Up – a quarterly budget for training is open for all to use – for anything they like. Employees pay for a part of the course fees – a smaller percentage for professional courses and a higher one for a personal one. But again, it can be anything they like.
Why we like them: Employees are given budgets to use as they see fit.
Optoro offers its employees an annual professional development budget that they can use - in conjunction with their managers – to further their professional skills.
They also provide skills-based seminars on a plethora of topics the whole year round and actively encourage all employees to participate in the conferences, organizations and learning programs that will keep them expanding their professional knowledge.
What we like: No questions asked, equal opportunity for all
If you have been an Amazon employee for at least one year then you are eligible for a course worth $12000!
The Career Choice Program by Amazon pre-pays 95% of tuition and fees for certificates and associate degrees in areas that are in high demand, such as aircraft mechanics, computer-aided design, machine tool technologies, medical lab technologies, nursing, and so on – regardless of whether they have any relevance to work at Amazon!
We doubt there is any organisation out there, large or small, that is not working hard to engage and motivate employees to the best of their abilities and budgets.
But, it is easy to get caught up in the business of running an organisation; of meeting targets and deadlines. Which is why you need to remember these three things -
Whether you have a robust L&D programme or are just starting to put down the foundation of your career development policies, it always pays to understand the needs and aspirations of your employees and this is where we can help.
To know more click the Request Consultation button above.
Motivating, retaining and keeping your employees happy and engaged will always be a priority for the entire management, not just HR but for anyone who manages a team.
As the new generation of Millennials enters the workforce in large numbers, to create a productive environment, policies and engagement models need to align with their way of thinking.
With high expectations, high energy and high self-confidence – millennials approach work very differently from the baby boomer generation! They are extremely comfortable working in teams and in flatter organisations, love to multi-task and, of course, are completely at ease with digital technology.
For the millennial - aware of global situations - civic responsibility is quite important; they don’t just want to do well but also do some good!
Creativity and innovation is also something they value highly at the workplace. Being able to come up with new ideas, processes, products or services is important for them, and a company with a culture of encouraging an individual’s talents gets an instant thumbs up.
46% of the workforce will be made up of Millennials by 2020! While we need to engage and retain them, we also cannot afford to ignore the other 54% of older employees.
While some motivating factors remain true across ages – money, responsibility, and appreciation – generational viewpoints differ on the specifics. It has become clear that a one-size-fits-all engagement policy is not entirely effective in organisations with a mix of age groups and generations.
Work-life balance is cited as the number one factor for choosing a job according to this study by Deloitte. This can be done by breaking down the traditional workday and offering flexible working hours. The idea is to prioritise deadlines and outcomes over putting in a set number of hours.
With so much technology, there is no reason to be rigidly chained to the desk anymore – allowing employees to choose their work times can go a long way in keeping them happy.
Usually, the organisational appraisal policies are annual or bi-annual at best. With millennials, there is a demand for more regular and constructive feedback.
This is a generation that wants to know where they stand and are looking for ways to improve – for this continuous and constructive feedback is important. This small but essential change to the appraisal structure can go a long way to make millennials – and indeed everyone in the company - more productive.
The organisational structure where they have to wait years for a promotion is seen as demotivating by most millennials.
While some organisations cannot create new titles or change promotion policies, performance bonuses, training opportunities and some forms of recognition always help create a sense of achievement and progress which highly coveted by everyone regardless of their age.
According to the 2014 Millennial Impact Report, 94% of millennials want to use their professional skills to benefit a cause.
A great way to harness this energy is to involve them in CSR activities. A company that is seen as a socially conscious organisation is sure to appeal to the millennial worker.
Almost all organisations have L&D policies and matching budgets to facilitate their projects. Millennial employees value skill enhancement and advancement, and a generous L&D HR policy would certainly make an organisation seem more attractive.
Over decades HR policies have worked with some of the ideas mentioned above – L&D and Incentive Schemes have figured in HR and Management discussions for years. The challenge is to adapt these existing policies to meet the expectations of the new generation of employees.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if you are a 20-year-old fresher or a 60-year-old approaching retirement, we all want the same things in life – we want to take care of our families, succeed at work, leave behind a legacy and enjoy ourselves – the only difference is how we approach this key human wants.
If you are looking for ways to engage your employees, then we can certainly help. We can help you devise strategies that can foster real engagement and across all organization levels. Click on the Request Consultation button above.
All of us have hidden strengths that come forth when we are challenged or inspired. And at SoaringEagles we love to hear these stories of human endurance and ingenuity. Of dreams – big and small – becoming a reality.
Every month, we try to catch up with a woman entrepreneur or business leader for a quick chat to understand how they do, what they do!
This month, we spoke to Nirali Sanghi, Founder & Owner, Indiaparenting.com
Indiaparenting.com is India’s first and largest parenting site catering to the needs of parents across diverse geographies, culture, and language with nuanced content that is relevant to their local culture.
“I had a 5-month old baby; we did 18-hour days, and I couldn’t wait to get up the next day and start again.”
This is the sentence that sticks to mind from our conversation with Nirali!
Here’s the rest of the talk -
Nirali: Well, after I had my baby in 1998, like all new mums I went on the Internet to look for advice and information and saw a huge gap – there was no information that was India centric. All the biggest websites and forums were either US or UK based. Things like Indian baby names, information on mundan ceremonies, etc – things that are specific to our culture was just not discussed online.
So right off the bat, I knew that this is something that has enormous potential! By the time my baby was 5 months old, I had a team of 15 people working out of my bedroom - there were desks and laptops all around and a baby sleeping on the side. We launched the website in May 1999.
It was crazy, but also really great! We were doing everything in that one room; writing, designing, programming – you name it.
You have to remember this was the dot-com boom period and the website really took off very very fast. We even had an offer to sell it. We got funding in 2000, just before the huge dot-com crash!
Nirali: Well I have around nine years of experience in Banking and Marketing, so when it comes to approaching investors, I knew what I was doing.
At first, the idea was to use the funds to acquire other similar parenting sites and expand the business, but with the crash, the market was quite iffy, and in 2003 I decided to return the unused funds. Our investors had entrusted it to us and as we didn’t need the funds anymore; I was sure that returning them would unlock the investment for someone else, so we gave the investors their money back.
Our website was self-funded and making money. We didn’t need the extra funds, and it was the right thing to do.
We did a whole redesign and relaunched the website in 2008, and then the market crashed again in 2009!
Nirali: In the beginning, naturally the struggle to just get it off the ground was immense – there was no office, very few employees, I had to keep a tight rein on the cost because it was all coming out of my pocket and also it was all so new.
Plus, I have very strong opinions on what I like regarding content and style and managing a diverse team of creative people with different mindsets was something I had trouble with in the beginning.
What I find professionally challenging and also very exciting is to create new products and develop them from scratch – its all yours, like a baby. That’s what keeps me going really.
Of course, along the way, there were products and services that didn’t work very well – like an e-commerce venture for baby products. We realised that people are searching for specific information when they visit us, and the mindset was not receptive to pitch sales.
Nirali: I didn’t have any specific challenges being a woman.
Now things are a bit different, but at the start, we would go for meetings, and people would just look at the male employee, they just expected the guy to be senior, I guess (laughs). Men focus on men! All that has changed a fair bit now, so many more women in boardrooms now.
Nirali: We are the largest Indian parenting site! And the first, other sites came and went, but we are still here and growing. I couldn’t have done it without my outstanding team. We have 15 permanent employees now, and every single one of them is fantastic. I give them a completely free hand and no matter what the challenge – they just crack it! I know it sounds like a cliché, but we are like a family.
Nirali: Well actually I am getting several opportunities to speak at forums and conferences, and I thought I could use some help.
What I discovered is that I am part of the vast majority of average speakers (laughs) - we are not too bad, but not great either. So, the course really helped spike my confidence by correcting some important points – like dealing with negative situations or structuring the ppt.
What I really liked was how to make your presentation memorable – I never really thought in that direction, so that was quite refreshing.
Nirali: From my experience, its family support. Your husband, your children, and your extended family matter a great deal – they can either make the journey fun or make it harder.
As the digital world expands and fills up our homes, we are quite sure that Nirali and her team will continue to grow with it. We wish them continued success!
If you would like to share your entrepreneurial journey, then drop us a quick note or a comment below. We would love to hear from you.
When we first thought of deconstructing a good speech, it seemed like such a great and obvious idea to showcase our public speaking programme.
After exhausting a month’s worth of data on YouTube, we realised it’s not easy to pick just one. When it comes to great, world-changing orators, there are so many to choose from!
After much thought and discussion, we finally picked Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at the Stanford university's 114th Commencement on June 12, 2005 – 29 million views and counting!
For us, two things immediately stand out –
But seriously, one of the reasons we chose this talk – apart from the fact that this is a great example of a memorable speech - is to debunk the myth that a good speech has to be memorised!
Now to be honest when it comes to the delivery style, this speech doesn’t hold a candle to Martin Luther King’s famous civil rights speech or Winston Churchill’s radio address or Hitler’s power-packed performances.
There are no quotable quotes, no deep voices, no arm throwing - yet it is memorable; you will remember his life stories, and you will remember the last few words (Stay hungry, stay foolish) forever!
Humans are wired to listen to stories, and when those stories are about love and loss and overcoming difficult life situations, we empathise! We root for the underdog, and we revel in his victories. In the end, we come out feeling good!
The speech follows the arc of his life – mapping three crucial milestones and each reinforces the same core message – Do what you love, believe in yourself, and everything will work out!
Let’s look at the first story – we start with a baby boy left in limbo while his birth mother holds out for the right parents. He builds up the importance of education and then destroys it in favour of individuality, and he does this in one of the best and most expensive educational institutions in the world; in front of hundreds of graduates – how’s that for a beginning!
And before it all gets too heavy and sentimental, he times it just perfectly to give the story a happy ending with a little bit of fun in the form of a humorous swipe at his biggest competitor -
“If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”
Moreover, he returns and employs this storytelling structure in the other two stories as well – starts with an idea or a hint to what the core message could be; talks about a terrible period of his life and finally presents a uplifting success story – the audience is literally living the highs and lows of his life with him.
“My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor’s code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you’d have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.”
“I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery, and I’m fine now.”
And then there is the message at the end of each story! He leaves the audience with these uplifting, life-changing mantra that inspires and transforms them. The 3 stories define a full circle – the speech is not just a collection of unrelated anecdotes from his life – they trace the pattern of birth, life, and death itself! And each episode come back to the core message – Find your calling, don’t settle for less.
We deconstructed this speech to find out some specific takeaways. We wanted to list some of the reasons that made this speech so memorable – it is certainly not the delivery style; there are no theatrics or even a slide.
After much discussion, we listed these features that we can replicate to make other speeches memorable -
This is just the tip of the iceberg! For those of you who might want to apply these learnings to your presentations and public speaking engagements, we have put together some more recommendations (all those hours on YouTube threw up some gems). So, if you have some time – take a look and be inspired!
A deconstruction of one of the most popular TED Talk given by Simon Sinek.
And certainly, take a look at this landmark talk on The Secret Structure of Great Talks by the guru of Presentations, Nancy Duarte
If you are feeling a tad overwhelmed before your big talk or presentation, then why do it alone. Reach out to us and we will be able to help you structure your content for maximum impact. Click on the Request Consultation button above.
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