The Imperative of Nurturing India's Women in the Workforce

A Monday in November, halfway across the world. A torrential downpour and Bangalore traffic greeted us as we tried to move around the city. What is it like for people that live and work in Bangalore? How about for parents, fighting wild traffic every day to get their kids? You see people on scooters, motorbikes, and buses, all trying to get home after a long day at work. And you must be patient because the streets are shared, bustling with activity on foot and in cars, with cows headed home and those beige dogs roaming around (why are they always that same color?). If you have been here, you can picture it.

New Issues & Opportunities for India's Professional Women

Working Mother Media hosted its Women's Advancement conference here in Bangalore, co-sponsored by Diversity Best Practices.  Over three days, there were sessions and networking opportunities designed to encourage companies that do business in India to participate in dialogue on how to enable working women to be successful, grow their careers, and manage personal and family responsibilities.  HR participants shared best practices for creating inclusive workplace environments that leverage individual talents, for the good of the organization and for its employees.

It is an exciting time to be a working woman in India, but also a very difficult one as well.

We at Horizons Workforce Consulting just completed a survey, Workforce Insights: India, in collaboration with the WoMentoring Initiative of the Mumbai chapter of the National Human Resource Development  (NHRD).  We learned a lot about what it's like for working people with "great jobs" in organizations throughout the country.  As I sat on the bus in Bangalore, I was reminded of one response: " My major worry is dropping and picking up my child...while managing the office timings and daily travel."  Many with "great jobs" are with multinationals who keep hours supporting operations in the USA and UK. With the time difference, this can be a challenge and source of significant stress for working parents.

Work, Life, and Career Aspirations in India

Perhaps the biggest finding in the survey was how important career aspirations are to the engagement of employees. Workers in India are well-educated and career-oriented. When they cannot continue in their chosen career, it is at great loss to the organization. One respondent noted that "I have basically quit work full time and taken up part time assignments to bring up my children."  Organizations in India that address the barriers and challenges to having a career and managing one's life have a competitive edge. It's key to provide supports like mentoring, coaching, child care provisions, and resources to help women re-integrate back to work after the birth or adoption of a child.

While in Bangalore last week, I was reminded of how hard it can be to manage work and life. These families, those who are educated and those employed at "great jobs," are the lucky ones.

Isn't it time to invest in making these employees and their families more successful?

The Mumbai Chapter of NHRD, our partners in the survey, shared a number of strategies to help companies consider how to make a difference.  I encourage you to check out the report and consider what could be different in your organization in India.

What makes it hard for your employees who live and work in India?  What are they struggling with that your organization might consider addressing?  I would love to hear from you!

Written by: Andrea Wicks Bowles

About the Author

Andrea Wicks Bowles at Bright Horizons

As Senior Consultant, Director Global Initiatives, Horizons Workforce Consulting, Andrea works with Bright Horizons clients to enhance the effectiveness of their employees and strengthen their position as an employer of choice. Her knowledge of global child care policies, organizational effectiveness, and work/life industry trends combined with analytical skills is used to help clients uncover their unique issues and challenges. Andrea, a frequent speaker at work/life conferences, is a key contributor to Bright Horizons' research investigations.