A country with an aggressive focus on rapid advancement cannot afford to overlook the importance of half its skilled and intelligent workforce. In that sense, the contribution of women to the economy of a developing nation gains great significance. In this context, social enterprises like JobsForHer pave the way for creating a balanced workforce with equal representation of women, and in the process bolster women’s financial independence. Meet the young and vivacious entrepreneur, Neha Bagaria, a Wharton graduate, a wife, a mother-of-two and a woman who restarted her career by establishing opportunities for women who had taken career-breaks, founding JobsForHer, a connecting portal for women who wish to restart their careers after a break.
How does the industry react to women who would like to restart their career after a break? Which industry is the most conducive for a comeback for women?
“JobsForHer portal connects women with a range of job opportunities in reputed companies looking for women with experience and talent, who wish to restart their careers. We work with a plethora of companies in industries ranging from IT, education, banking, BPOs and startups that are keen to offer opportunities to women because they realize this is a talent pool of qualified, experienced, capable women who are recharged to prove themselves again and are available to join a company immediately.”
What are your views om why a career-break often becomes necessary for women? Why do you believe that women who can, should get back to work? How can the career-break impact the journey for ambitious women?
“A woman’s career graph is not linear; it is often riddled with many breaks. Career breaks are great as they allow women to take time out, often for family, children, the elderly, or even study, travel and for many other reasons. But most often, for many women, the path to getting back is difficult, even for the most ambitious of them. Indian women are staying away from the table because they are being forced to choose between two worlds, work and family, instead of attempting to find a happy medium between the two.”
Give us a brief background on the rationale behind the venture.
“I took a 3.6-year of break in my own career when I had my children. During this personal journey, I became aware of the various difficulties a woman faces in order to re-enter the workforce. This also opened my eyes to the accomplished and qualified women around me who stopped working for personal reasons such as marriage, motherhood or elderly care, and then never returned to the workforce. I started delving into the reasons behind this female brain drain and it became clear that there are many re-entry challenges that need to be addressed in India. These range from requiring flexibility, regaining confidence, retraining, overcoming biases and changing mindsets. It made me determined to enable other women to restart their careers and connect them with career opportunities. And so, I founded JobsForHer on International Women’s Day, March 2015.”
How far have you traveled since you first commenced your venture?
“During the past two years, our portal has grown from strength to strength with 3000+ companies and 10,000+ jobs so far in full-time, part-time, work-from-home, returnee programs in diverse functional areas, industries and cities across India.
We have also partnered with renowned blue-chip companies like Citibank, Dell, Intuit, Sapient, PayPal, Mindtree, etc to provide them branding, engagement and recruitment diversity solutions. Furthermore, we have organized successful mentorship roadshows for our candidates as well as services like resume-writing, career counselling, etc.”
Since your niche is exclusive, what do you believe is your USP? What are your challenges?
“Our USP is that we are dedicated to enable women to restart their careers and are determined to provide suitable offerings and features – ranging from a wide array of job openings to mentorship, inspiration, reskilling and networking opportunities like RestartHer.
Before the launch of JobsForHer, women used to be advised to hide the gap in their resumes. This was unacceptable to us because, usually, the reasons women take a break is to care for their families, children, elderly – reasons for which they should be rewarded, not penalized. We thus decided to trumpet the fact that all the women on our portal have breaks in their career and that is one of their core strengths, not shortcomings. Thus, when a woman searches for job opportunities at JobsForHer, she is assured that the companies on our portal are interested in hiring her despite the break, and oftentimes because of it.
JobsForHer is committed to reverse female brain drain from within the Indian workforce and help women achieve their full potential.”
Do you believe JobsForHer and similar companies make a difference to a country like India, more so to Indian women?
“The path to the top is very different for men and women, and particularly so in India. While most men enjoy a linear career growth path, women tend to experience a zig-zag journey because they are the traditional caregivers. This makes the career path a strenuous one for women, because they juggle many balls at the same time as their personal and professional lives grow and evolve.
Out of the working women statistics, 50% drop out of the workforce in three years, resulting in approximately, 10 million women in India who are graduates or post-graduates but involved in domestic duties in India (according to a PwC study). The reasons for their breaks are usually personal – maternity, relocation, burnout, elderly-care, etc. Hence, men outnumber women particularly at the middle management level and above – because this is the time that women are more likely to cut back or drop out, when they get married and have children. This results in the problem of the Leaky Talent Pipeline in which industry averages are for companies to have 40% women at the entry level which drops to 10% at the managerial level and 1% at the CEO level. Companies like ours are contributing to enhancing the nation’s productivity and the economy by creating a balanced and productive workforce and in the process, empowering women financially, emotionally and intellectually.
The above infographic shows how only 10% of female graduates are pursuing long-term careers in India.”
Do women who have taken a career-break need organizational/societal support to refurbish their knowledge/skills when they plan to return?
“When a woman makes that life-changing decision to step away from a successful career to look after the needs of her family and those who depend on her, she very often does not make a comeback plan. And, even if she does, it often, eventually, falls by the wayside. This is because a plethora of factors contribute to that plan’s demise. The network of people in her circle often dissuades her when she starts thinking about getting back to work. She can gainfully use this same network to restart. A woman needs the staunch support of her family and friends and in fact everyone she knows, to help plan her career. Societal support is very important.
With our PayItForward Campaign for the RestartHer event, anybody can choose to sponsor one woman or a number of women, to restart their careers. This one-time action will keep realizing its ROI by rebuilding the workforce of our country.”
Can you detail your endeavors to equip women to get back to work, other than of course, placing them in companies?
“Our Mentorship Board provides multiple sources of experts from various fields to identify the candidate’s key advantages and outline job search strategies. We host online Webinars and Expert Chats for mentor-candidate interactions.
We are also spearheading a new vertical dedicated to reskilling. We will be hosting a number of free and paid online and offline courses on our website. Additionally, women could take classes/workshops, attend meetups, watch mentor videos on YouTube and attend our online webinars. Reskilling, will not only show how passionate you are about your field but will also boost the professional development section of your resume.
Women can also join the JobsForHer Ambassador Network that enables them to help each other. They are connected via online mediums such as WhatsApp, Facebook, etc and meet up once every few months to share their stories.
Do you also organize flexi or part-time jobs for women?
“Yes, we do have flexi and part-time jobs on our portal for women who are looking at flexible work styles to balance work and home responsibilities. These range from part-time, work-from-home, freelance projects, volunteer opportunities to returnee internships.”
Do you believe established entrepreneurs like you, who are especially involved in an enterprise that address women’s causes should involve themselves in campaigns/awareness endeavors to help our country create an ambience conducive for women to continue with their employment?
“Cyrus Mistry, ex-Chairman of the Tata Group noted, “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.”
At JobsForHer, we found that women did not have a clear-cut way to getting back into the workforce after a break and that was clearly a deterrent. Simplifying and smoothening the path for our women to return to the workforce after a break makes for a greater GDP, a better growth trajectory, a balanced workplace environment and happier families on the whole.
India still ranks abysmally low in terms of economic participation of women. The Global Gender Report 2015, by the World Economic Forum, ranked India at 139 out of 145 countries. Increasing the Labor Force Participation Rate (LFPR) for women is vital to achieving high growth of employment and overall economic growth.
I would like to see the Government address the issue of low female participation rate and WPR (Worker Population Ratio). We hope to see the launch of various legislation-based schemes and other programs where the emphasis is on female participation. Hence, workplace policies must get more family-friendly, such as provision of more flexi-time opportunities, paid maternity/paternity leave for six months or more, employee protection from sexual harassment, request for a raise, forced un/paid-leave due to pregnancy, access to sabbatical-leave, access to good-quality childcare facilities, provision of travel (pick and drop) facilities, etc.
A study done by McKinsey Global Institute estimated that complete gender parity in India could add $2.9 trillion to the country’s annual gross domestic product (GDP) by 2025. This would be 60% more than the business-as-usual GDP by 2025.
So the potential for growth is immense where we would like to see women across India achieve their full potential by restarting their careers, and companies working with us to create more returnee-friendly work environments.
However, the enabling conditions to achieve this are daunting. Although there has been a shift from the earlier generation in that more women do want to get jobs, there is a demand-supply mismatch; there aren’t enough jobs of the kind that would be acceptable to women who tend to weigh factors like flexibility, security, travel distance from home more carefully than men before accepting employment. These issues need to be at the center of economic policies. We would like to see schemes ensuring equality at work, provision of essential services for women and supportive legal and political empowerment, through government-led campaigns.