According to LinkedIn Recruiting Trends 2018 report, Indian companies are going the extra mile to hire and retain more women - not just to improve the company’s cultural equation but also boost productivity. They are adopting initiatives such as maternity benefits, cab facilities, sabbatical leave and flexi-work policies to retain and build a pipeline of women leaders. However, a large majority of women continue to drop out of the workforce during the prime of their career for varied reasons – chief among them being to take care of their family. In the first four months of 2017, 2.4 million women fell off the employment map in India, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE). So what more can businesses do to retain women across their employee journey?

Let’s dive into some prospective strategies organizations can consider to increase retention and advancement of their women employees.

include men in the discourse:

Despite the discussions around career growth for women, reports indicate that women constitute less than 15% of the leadership team in 90% of the Fortune 500 companies. Things cannot change unless the most critical segment responsible for driving women’s growth is included in the conversation – i.e. the male leaders. To begin with, there’s a need to reshape the mindset of baby boomers who occupy most of the senior leadership positions today and are responsible for key organizational decisions. Deloitte seems to understand this. The accounting firm is focusing on engaging men in the discourse around women’s advancement. The company conducts trainings for its male managers to help them become more inclusive and then makes them responsible for constructing a team that is balanced from a gender point of view. 

develop a formalized leadership development plan for women:

Successful companies recognize that all types of diversity, including gender diversity, spur innovation and growth. A structured leadership development plan for women can help bring different perspectives to the table and serve customers better. 3M Singapore is seeing significant success in applying this approach by placing 60% of women in its local leadership teams. Organizations looking to retain more women would do well to emulate the key tenets of its formalized leadership development scheme for women: 

● Women’s progress aligned to global priorities with network of women leaders across regions driving the agenda 

Development programs that stress the importance of continuous learning

● Self-initiated development programs by women which include stretch projects and opportunities to take on different roles, training, and coaching

To establish seriousness of the initiative, 3M conducted a series of company-wide town halls, created a focused group of leaders to advocate women’s advancement, and shared best practices.

try reverse mentoring:

At IBM, there is a practice where women – identified as future leaders - are paired with top executive who act as their mentors. Titled ‘reverse or reciprocal monitoring’ this program opens up a stream of opportunities where both parties learn from each other through continued interaction. This is a powerful strategy to showcase and create visibility for potential women workers at the management level. In addition, it also lays out some of the strategic and key issues faced by businesses, giving women the opportunity to resolve them. An informal method, reverse mentoring is a good way to dismantle some of the biases that the male dominated leadership community tends to latently carry in their minds. 

develop support programs closer to the realities of a woman’s life:

In India, women typically drop out of the job market at three critical points: at the time of childbirth, while mentoring children during their high school education, and when taking care of the elderly. While many organizations provide perks such as day care programs for their female employees, not many attempt to cater to needs that will ensure their career continuity.  Some forward thinking companies are, however, attempting to change the equation. SBI, the leading Indian bank, is a trailblazer in this regard. It has a unique practice of temporarily relocating their women employees who need to stay close to their parents or parents -in-law – to a location of their choice for a designated period of time. This has not only helped increase retention but has also created a strong pipeline of women leaders for the bank.

Ultimately, women’s retention and advancement are not the responsibility of any one function in an organization. It is an agenda that should be driven with equal commitment from across departments – sales, marketing, operations, business, and finance among others. Each needs to be the agent of change with HR acting as the glue – an unwavering support system that helps different departments realize what they set out to achieve.


about the author
yashab giri new
yashab giri new

yeshab giri

chief commercial officer - staffing & RT professionals

yeshab is responsible for leading the development and expansion of randstad India’s value added staffing services which currently encompass field force, engineering and technology roles.