What Women Want from #Budget2017 to Succeed in the Workplace

  • Schonali
  • in
  • Back to Work, Women-friendly Companies, Working Women
  • |
  • 30 Jan 2017


Nations are built on the living, breathing backs of working families. What powers economies is the sweat, stress, and toil of hardworking women and men, whose families benefit from and bear the brunt of that hard work.

There are nations who have figured out how to retain their female workforce, which they consider an invaluable asset to their economic systems, by valuing their work as well as their families, and the vitally necessary time that they need to devote to each.

Then, there are nations who are looking to embrace those values for their people, because they see that it is the only way ahead in the 21st century workplace.

And then, there are nations who need to wake up and smell the stale coffee that’s been going cold on the desk in the workplace that has lost its female workforce because their policies just do not match the stark realities of what it takes to balance work and family.

Which one is ours?

Workplace policies must get more family-friendly before we have another disaster on our hands in terms of losing out on highly-educated, highly-qualified, and highly-experienced workers to elevate our socio-economic goals to where they need to be instead of where they are.

Too many women have walked out a spinning door and been too scared, shamed, and disillusioned by socio-cultural stigmas to look back...

"The problem is that when we go back to work after becoming mothers, we are given less responsibility and unimportant projects since we can't stay for long hours. Companies start considering us the weakest link in the team." - Anjali Bhushan[1]

"Unlike the West, in India it is very common for employers to probe the marital status and family situation from a woman seeking a job. It is a big consideration in selection, so it is not wrong if women feel discriminated against." - Shiv Aggarwal, MD - ABC Consultants[2]

Indian women need to know that their country needs them to pick up where they left off and restart their careers. They need to know that they are valued – for the best years of their lives that they put into their education, for the beginning, struggling years of their careers making little or no money for long hours of experience, for those mid-level, arduous-climb years to earn the promotions that they knew were theirs.

And for the years that they walked away from it all to look after someone in their family – husband, child(ren), elders(in-law) – placing others’ needs before theirs, doing what needed to be done because only they could.

National Sample Survey reports tell us that, in 2009-10, out of every 1,000 females (all ages) in India’s rural areas, 347 were attending to domestic duties. In the case of urban females, this number was even bigger: 465 per 1000. Compare this to the number of rural and urban men who were attending to domestic duties: only 5 per 1,000 and 4 per 1,000 respectively.[3]

They need to know their value in a nation that places unending reverence on mothers and motherhood, on woman in a range of avatars, on the ideal of womanliness, but seemingly not much on a woman’s economic contribution to our bottom-line.

Why are India’s women staying away from the table? Because they are being forced to choose between two worlds that they love equally; but realistically – one a little more than the other.

Family will always come first in the standard Indian scenario because the Indian woman shoulders the guilt of a thousand generations. The guilt of wife, the guilt of mother, and the guilt of daughter(-in-law). Her guilt is perpetuated by a system that has historically benefited the male status-quo in our patriarchal society.

However, the reality of the 21st century is that we are all being driven to increasingly consumer-based economies, which more than ever requires a double-income household.

Economies grow countries and take them forward. So, our government needs to start sitting up a little straighter and taking notice of what has been happening in countries like Canada, and the UK, and in Scandinavian countries, for decades now.[4] They need to be taking the economic contribution of our female workforce seriously and giving them a fighting chance to get back in the saddle again.

Family-friendly work policies benefit the nation as a whole. They are no longer “women’s issues”.

Men, too, now take the night-shift when their newborn babies come home from the hospital. They, too, are elbow-deep in diapers, laundry, dishes in the sink and other household chores, alongside their wives. They, too, want to cash-in on that immensely gratifying bonding time with their children, the years that never come back once they’re gone.[5] And this is happening in Indian families – among the educated, urban, middle-class (which is large enough in numbers to matter). So these really are no longer “women’s issues” or duties.

Here is the tip of the iceberg that the government could consider for Budget 2017 when allocating funds towards programs that better our nation:

  • Subsidizing flex-time & telecommuting options in companies
  • Subsidizing paid maternity/paternity leave for 6 months or more
  • Guaranteeing employee-protection from sexual harassment
  • Guaranteeing employee-protection from request for a raise
  • Providing for access to leave for high-risk pregnancies or miscarriages
  • Providing for access to sabbatical leave
  • Providing for access to good-quality childcare facilities
  • Provision of good-quality health care for children
  • Provision of travel (pick and drop) facilities

Out of all these examples, which of them do not benefit BOTH men and women?

We have to change the way we think about these relevant issues and we have to do it fast, or we will be left dragging the dust while the rest of the world gallops across the horizon.

According to two research papers conducted on the subject (for India), “Female enrollment in colleges leapt from 10 per cent of total admissions at the time of independence to 41 per cent in 2010. However, this has not translated to equivalent gains in women’s employment. Indeed, in the past few decades, the percentage of urban and educated working women has been stagnant or even fallen. Overall, only 20 per cent of urban educated working-age women actually work. Further, nearly half of those drop out mid-career.[6]

This is alarming and it is unconscionable. This is not surging forward, it is slugging backward.

Our grandmothers and mothers did not put in the effort they did for us to get where we have and then have it wasted away, by either our disillusionment with the working world and how it translates for our family lives, nor the government’s non-involvement in making that world a friendly place with their backing and blessing that we will be protected from discrimination, when we do return.

Indian women comprise a significant, highly-educated chunk of our brain bank – and the bank is draining when it could be burgeoning.

Kevin O’Leary of reality-TV-show Shark Tank fame candidly opined that his investments run by female CEOs consistently outperform his investments headed by men. He observed that his female CEOs’ risk-taking is vastly superior in that it is careful, intermediate, and often more researched than their male counterparts. He found that those CEOs that were busy mothers at home performed at the highest level in the group. The multitasking capacity of a busy mom could leave the most eager, energetic and aggressive-assertive male stunned.

 “It kind of makes sense, right?

Attributes that I have observed are that they take less risk, they are more goal orientated in terms of setting targets and meeting them. If they say, ‘I am going to expand capacity or we’re going to increase distribution in the next quarter’, they deliver,” he explained. “It’s not an intuitive feeling. It’s actual hardcore results.”[7]

Cyrus Mistry, the ex-Chairman of the Tata group, did in 2013 what few (if any) other Indian businessmen have done – he laid out in stark terms the cost of leaving women out of the workforce, noting that "When women are insufficiently represented in the workplace, we lose out on 50 per cent of the talent pool. In an environment where human capital makes all the difference between success and failure, this is a massive loss which countries and corporates can ill-afford."[8]

In the Global Gender Gap Report for 2016 by the World Economic Forum, India ranks 87 out of 142 countries. This is an improvement from its ranking of 114 in the same report from 2014. But, given the leaps and bounds that we are making in modernizing our economy and society in terms of consumerism, technology, and lifestyle innovations, we owe it to the other half of our population to bring them back to work.

Forty-eight percent of Indian females drop out of the workforce before they reach mid-career. The largest percentage of Indian women leaving the workforce occurs between the junior and middle level, as opposed to between the middle and senior levels.”[9]


However, there are ways forward – many ways – and countries around the world are initializing the conversations, which are the baby-steps towards making them a reality for their economies.

In the UK, the BBC reported last week that, “The All Party Parliamentary Group on women and work calls for companies with more than 250 staff to put better programmes in place for returners. It says existing "returnship" schemes rarely help women on lower incomes. The MPs were examining reasons why women find difficulties in returning to work after a career break. They cited the cost of childcare and the lack of a clear way back as key obstacles to returning to work. Their report called for employers to take more note of the caring responsibilities of employees and to give the ‘sandwich generation’ more help. ‘Spending time at home with children or looking after elderly parents does not make women or men less capable and it should not be a deterrent when wanting to go back to work at the appropriate time’, said the committee's co-chair, Flick Drummond.” Another report stated that "It's an opportunity to repopulate the talent pipeline at mid- and senior levels. And what you get is highly engaged and highly motivated people."[10]

Simplifying and smoothening the path for our  women to return to the workforce after whatever break they took because they had to, because they were the only ones in their families who could or would do it, makes for a better GDP, a better growth trajectory, a better balanced workplace environment, happier families and happier countries, on the whole.

Our women matter more than we’re giving them credit for and we need to show them that they do.

So, dear Indian government, on the eve of our financial budget for the year 2017, do consider the ramifications of ignoring what the women of our country are silently (and some not so silently) hoping will be considered and acknowledged. True enablement of their return to the workforce, true financial support in areas that matter to the working families of our country, true endorsement of the educations our women pursued, the work experience they gained, and the sacrifices they made so that the rest of their families could walk the path to progress and success.

Bring our women back to work.

If you're ready to reclaim that career that you once rocked, visit us at JobsForHer and sign up today! Browse our site for tips on HOW to restart, inspiration from those who've gone before you whose stories, surprisingly, are the SAME as yours, access to MENTORS within the working world who are passionate about bringing women back to work, just like we are, and a host of other tools to bring YOU back to where you belong.... 


Currently the Manager of Creative Content at JobsForHer, Schonali Rebello is a full-time mom to an athletic and bubbly 3-year-old, and has worked in a smorgasbord of jobs – from executive-assistant to a tech-CEO to fundraising for the classical performing arts, from bartending in Toronto to conceptualizing events at a supper-club in Bangalore, from heading communications at a family-owned group of agricultural and real-estate companies to handling Nespresso events with coffee planters in Coorg. After all of this she is finally living her dream as a Creative Writing & Women's Studies graduate, writing articles, blog-posts and reviews on women's issues in the Indian workplace, with JobsForHer – an online portal that connects women who took a break in their careers for marriage/motherhood/elderly care/relocation, with companies that want to hire them.

[1] Why Motherhood Makes Indian Women Quit their Jobs - Divya Arya, BBC, 23rd April, 2015

[2] Why Motherhood Makes Indian Women Quit their Jobs - Divya Arya, BBC, 23rd April, 2015

[3] A Woman Shaped Gap in the Indian Workforce – Jayan Jose Thomas, The Hindu, January 2013

[4] These 9 Countries have the World’s Best Maternity Leave Policies – May 2013

[5] President Obama Speaks at the Working Families Summit in Washington D.C. – June 2014

[6] “The Dismal State of Women’s Employment in India” – Tara Krishnaswamy, Newslaundry, October 22, 2014

[7] “Why Shark Tank’s ‘Mr. Wonderful’ Thinks Women Make Better CEOs” – Carol Roth,, February 2015

[8] “India Needs More Women in the Workforce” – Persis Khambatta, Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 2013

[9] “India Needs More Women in the Workforce” – Persis Khambatta, Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 2013

[10] Women Fear CV gaps for Career Breaks Alienate Employers – January 23rd, 2017

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