The value of women re-entering the workforce - Hindustan Times
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The value of women re-entering the workforce

May 17, 2024 04:10 PM IST

This article is authored by Jayanthi Gopal, head of people & intellectual capital, Mashreq Global Network, India.

As the world celebrated International Women's Day (IWD) and embraced its 2024 theme earlier this year, "Inspire Inclusion," the spotlight was once again directed toward the pressing need for gender equality in the workforce. This year's theme underscores the importance of fostering environments where all individuals, regardless of gender, feel valued, respected, and included. One pivotal aspect of achieving this inclusivity lies in supporting women who are re-entering the workforce after a break in their careers. Among the various initiatives aimed at facilitating this transition, returnship programmes have emerged as powerful tools for reintegrating female professionals into the workforce.

Working woman(Shutterstock)
Working woman(Shutterstock)

Moreover, these programmes not only provide a platform for skill enhancement and career advancement but also contribute significantly to the cultivation of diverse and inclusive workplaces.

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Returning to the workforce after a hiatus presents a myriad of challenges for women seeking to reignite their professional journey. Among these hurdles are:

· Skill depreciation: Extended career breaks often lead to skill depreciation, as technologies and industry practices evolve rapidly. Returning women may find themselves grappling with a perceived lack of currency in their skill sets, making re-entry into their respective fields daunting.

· Biases in hiring processes: Despite strides in diversity and inclusion efforts, biases against resume gaps persist in hiring processes, with many employers still harbouring reservations about candidates with career breaks.

· Lack of confidence and support networks: Confidence erosion is a common issue among returning women, stemming from self-doubt about their capabilities post-career break. Moreover, the absence of robust support networks exacerbates this challenge, leaving returning professionals feeling isolated and uncertain about their prospects.

· Difficulty balancing work and family responsibilities: Juggling work commitments alongside familial duties poses a significant challenge for returning women. This is evident in numbers indicating that women in India shoulder 70-80% of caregiving responsibilities. Hence, the pressure to strike a harmonious balance between professional aspirations and caregiving responsibilities can be overwhelming, often leading to feelings of guilt or inadequacy

Navigating through these obstacles requires a concerted effort from both individuals and organisations to foster an environment conducive to the successful reintegration of returning women into the workforce.

Returnship programmes stand as a transformative strategy, offering a beacon of hope for a significant segment of the eligible workforce. One of the key benefits lies in skills development and refresher training, addressing the challenge of skill depreciation resulting from career breaks. A report on Future of the Skills Landscape 2024 has found that 75% of women, who upskilled, found it easier to get back to work after a career break.

Additionally, returnship programmes offer invaluable mentorship and networking opportunities, facilitating the reintegration process and fostering professional connections vital for career advancement. Moreover, the provision of flexible work arrangements and robust support systems enables returnees to effectively balance their work and family responsibilities, nurturing a conducive environment for sustained career growth. Perhaps most importantly, participation in returnship programmes often results in a remarkable boost in confidence and marketability, equipping returning women with the tools and self-assurance needed to navigate the competitive landscape of today's workforce.

Recent reports suggest that India could potentially achieve an 8% Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth rate by 2030 if more women join the workforce, thus highlighting the broader economic potential of tapping India's female workforce. Supporting returning women through initiatives like returnship programmess extends far beyond merely meeting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) hiring targets; it delivers a multitude of benefits that enrich organisational dynamics and foster sustainable growth. By tapping into a diverse and experienced talent pool, these programmes infuse teams with fresh perspectives and a wealth of knowledge, fueling innovation and creativity. Moreover, the integration of returning women contributes to a more inclusive workplace culture, enhancing employee morale and engagement while bolstering the organisation's brand image as a progressive and supportive employer. As teams become more reflective of diverse perspectives, there's a tangible potential for increased profitability and productivity, driven by the varied skill sets and collaborative dynamics inherent in inclusive environments.

Ultimately, the broader impact of supporting returning women transcends mere statistics; it catalyses a transformative shift in organisational ethos, driving towards greater success and sustainability in today's competitive landscape.

This article is authored by Jayanthi Gopal, head of people & intellectual capital, Mashreq Global Network, India.

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