Women at the Work – old work policies, administered differently !

The journey towards women empowerment and gender balance at workplace has begun, but still there is a long way to go.

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A mid twenty-year-old, highest sales performer at one of our branches recently put in her papers and wrote great things about us as employer, her colleagues (the usual thank yous) and the great career she has had with us. When I asked who is she joining next, she replied innocently that she is getting married and has to hence relocate to join her husband in Bangalore . This incident is so usual, that it may not even build curiosity given the obvious- people marry, girls quit or relocate and make a fresh start after setting up the house so what’s the big deal here? What we just read above is the first gaping hole of the leaking bucket that typically is touted as one of the biggest (and easiest reasons in my opinion) reasons why women quit workplace. In case, you are wondering what happened to the girl mentioned above-we of course transferred her to Bangalore and she is doing fine in her new role (albeit with a little push as the Branch Manager ‘needed’ a guy who could speak local language and we eventually applied some principles of consultative selling internally).

What are the factors that limit women?

Women being natural care-givers, place their family on priority. On many occasions, they may tend to prioritize domestic responsibilities, responsibilities towards spouse, child care and elderly care, over their career aspirations and financial independence. While being the strong pillar of the family, they juggle with multiple roles and strive to bring their best, in every role they play. Multiple responsibilities often lead to a forced choice, between their career growth and their family. Independence and Career Growth, automatically, take a back seat and leads to them quitting the workforce, thereby increasing the gap in representation at leadership levels.

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Here, the diversity and inclusion principle of an organisation assumes importance. Companies must structure their culture and drive change across the entire employee pipeline to encourage more women to be a part of their workforce, and progressively climb the corporate ladder into the C-suite.

How is Sodexo women-friendly and gender-inclusive?

Diversity and inclusion have been the DNA of Sodexo since its inception. Regardless of the country we operate in, our work culture is attuned to interacting with the local communities, getting the best local talent onboard, nurturing promising talent and streamlining the system. Sodexo believes in extending opportunities to all employees, that help them discover themselves and bring their whole self to work. Women, along with minorities, are recognized and rewarded for their diverse ideas, perspectives and attitudes that contribute to the growth of the company. 31% of the workforce at Sodexo BRS India already consists of women and we are constantly striving to achieve a better ratio and attain the perfect balance.

In 2014, Sodexo launched the internal study to explore and understand the correlation between gender-balanced management and performance. Part two was released in 2018.

We now have over five years of data, covering 50,000 managers in 70 entities worldwide, that suggests gender-balanced teams outperform those that are not gender-balanced, and the optimal mix of gender is 40% to 60% women. A gender inclusive work culture scores much higher on key business performance indicators; hence, our efforts are aggressively directed towards achieving this goal in the minimum possible time.

Many concrete steps are being taken internally, to ensure progress on this aim.

1. Extending Maternity Benefit – Motherhood is a wonderful and enriching experience, be it through natural birth, adoption or surrogacy. New born babies need maximum time and care from their mothers. Sodexo recognizes this inherent need and allows every female employee to avail maternity leave benefit according to the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 and its subsequent amendments. Women can avail this benefit twice during their service in the company. Women employees are also granted pre-maternity and extended unpaid maternity leaves, on a case-to-case basis, depending on the complexity of the situation.

2. Co-Sharing of Child-Care expenses – Sodexo is empathetic to motherhood and we understand that a woman can only work with complete motivation and sincerity when she is confident that her baby is well taken care of, while they are at work. We offer financial assistance for availing crèche and daycare facilities for children up to the age of 8. This assistance covers 2 children of every female employee.

3. Condensed working hours – For resolving complex situations that may occur in life, Sodexo offers condensed working hours, so that an employee can optimize his/her time at work and at home, for best possible results and enable greater flexibility in time, to ease responsibilities. This offer can be utilized by employees who have been in continuous service for more than 12 months. Working hours can be reduced upto 4 hours/day and has a subsequent proportionate reduction in annual compensation between 20% to 50%. The maximum period an employee can avail this arrangement is, two years.

4. Work from home – Employees in support functions can work from home, one day in a week. That helps enhance productivity and manage work – life balance. Under this policy, employees who have served continuously for 12 months can avail this offer.

5. Sabbatical – Incase of personal exigencies, demise in the family, need for parents to take time off work to focus on their education of their adolescent children, medical care etc, employees on a need basis have been granted an unpaid sabbatical and the organisation has extended support, to ensure their personal responsibilities are taken care off and employees can return to normalcy and resume work with enhanced motivation.

The International Women’s Day is a constant reminder every year of the progress that we have made towards achieving women empowerment and gender balance at the workplace and beyond. While the journey has begun, there is still a lot more to be achieved. With a firmer resolve and better commitment, organisations can certainly challenge the status quo and build a more gender inclusive and diverse environment for a healthier future.

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