Sunday, November 16, 2014

Companies go all out to win women over at work

Indian HR heads may not be in a hurry to roll out egg-freezing perks like tech giants Apple and Facebook. But several of them have introduced their own woman-centric policies to help attract and retain talent — from offering exclusive parking lots to IVF leave.

MTS India, for instance, has made available special parking spots for women employees who drive to work. "There are also cab drops for female employees who end up working late as well as a security guard in case any female employee needs escorting," says Tarun Katyal, chief human resources officer, MTS India.

Since fertility treatments can be both physically and emotionally demanding, ICICI Bank allows 180 days of leave to employees seeking to undergo fertility treatment. This is in addition to maternity, childcare and adoption leave.
At Citi India, which has three women networks (employee-initiated and employee-led units), there are rooms for new mothers to relax in. Anuranjita Kumar, chief human resources officer, Citi South Asia, says diversity is a "business imperative" for the group. "It is an imperative to build a workplace that nurtures and promotes career trajectories of men and women alike," she says.

Gloob, a home decor and improvement company, has a play area for toddlers and lets women employees bring them along on certain work days. "This ensures greater engagement with women employees, among other things," says Kunal Sharma, Gloob's founder and director.

In India, a perk similar to paying for egg-freezing like the one Apple and Facebook have instituted may be perceived as "culturally insensitive" say HR sources. Mayank Chandra, managing partner, Antal International, said such practices (companies paying for freezing eggs) are not on top of the mind of prospective employees. "A good company, safe working environment and career growth are the major factors in terms of job change or even to retain employees," he says.

However, given the stress on achieving gender balance across industries, DSM India president Bharath Sesha does not rule out the idea of Indian companies paying for freezing of eggs of women employees in the near future. Incidentally, DSM India has a special sabbatical policy for women employees, where if a woman takes, say, a six-month sabbatical, her performance is assessed on the time that she worked with the company, that is, the six-month period that she did work is assessed as 'one year'.

But the real question experts are asking is how exactly are such practices translating into driving organizations to attain gender diversity?

"While companies are offering a lot of benefits to women employees, the question that should really be asked is why are these not translating into a greater number of women employees at the mid levels or senior levels? Why are women not getting promotions as fast as men do? Why are there pay gaps between women employees and male employees? Organizations which focus on general inclusion must look deeper into these areas so as to ensure they attain gender diversity," says Shachi Irde, executive director, Catalyst India's western region centre who believes the practices that will actually bridge the gender gap are parity in salaries and promotions.