Research Paper By Nirmala Menon
(Diversity & Executive Women Coaching,INDIA)
As a diversity professional focused on the retention and growth of women at work, I am aware that one of the biggest challenges to deal with is improving the return rate of women after maternity. It is possibly the most vulnerable stage in the career of a woman and many exit out of the workforce sealing a premature and abrupt end to their careers.
This impacts both the women and the organisations in many unfortunate ways. While it is true that women carry many socialized gender expectations of their role as mothers and primary caregivers, it is also true that many women have successfully managed careers and families if the transitions have been well planned and sensitively handled by both the organization (manager) as well as the woman herself.
In order to understand what may be possible enablers and barriers to returning new mothers and arrive at what may be possible interventions that can minimize the leakage, we conducted a study of working women in organisations in India.
Why this research
Mothers are one of the fastest growing segments of our workforce today. Today, women are likely to have about 5-10 years of work experience before they go on maternity leave. The organization’s investment in any experienced employee is sizeable and therefore cannot afford to lose them. Finding and training a new person for the job, is both expensive and time consuming. Ensuring that women rejoin after maternity is a growing priority for most companies.
Objective of research
The key objectives of the study was:
- To identify factors that can better facilitate women to go through a seamless pregnancy at work and return post motherhood
- Gain insights on how managers can support women through this process and help increase retention and growth
An online questionnaire was designed to cover the following
- Personal profile/demographics
- Perceptions on attitudes to pregnancy/motherhood at work
- Experience at work while pregnant/during maternity/post maternity
- Open ended questions for greater depth of feedback and suggestions to what can improve the situation
The survey was kept open for one month and mailed to different organisations to pass on to women employees in their organisations.
- A total of 500 women responded to the questionnaire
- 42% & 58% of managers & Individual contributors respectively
- 65% were professionals with post graduate degrees
- 93% had 4-10+ years of experience with 61% - 7-10+ years
- 82% had their children between 25-34 years