Over the past couple of decades, the focus on gender mainstreaming and gender equality has increased manifold. In a country like India, where millions of women are made to believe that their suffering and woes are a part of their destiny, gigantic efforts are required to empower women and bring them back on the equality path. The cultural and traditional mindsets in an Indian family do the maximum damage to a woman's ambitions and responsibilities. Women bear the burden of social responsibilities. Juggling between raising children, caring for elderly parents and other family demands, many professional women feel they have little choice but to interrupt their career path. For many women the decision to go for a career break is a tough one. After putting a lot of effort in education and training, spending years in gathering the skills and credentials -- it's a tough choice.
Apart from financial independence, these women find fulfillment in their careers and are not willing to lose it. However owing to societal pressures and family traditions, they are unduly forced to quit jobs/work and made to take a break. Although many women choose to leave their careers only for a short time and want to return to work, when these professionals make a decision to comeback, they face huge opposition and a cold attitude from employers and therefore, opportunities for them are very limited. They often face external and internal barriers because of the changed scenarios and gaps in their resumes. Apart from employer bias against career gaps, many women are also burdened by outdated skills and self-doubt. As women face difficulty getting back on the career track, confidence and ambition weaken, and many women end up scaling down their aspirations.
Jyotika Singh, a graphics designer from Delhi was working as creative head when she decided to take a break to raise her little boys. After three years she wanted to come back to the corporate world. As she started her job hunt, she was hit with the brutal reality of the employer's biases against career breaks. Despite a great resume and portfolio, her decision to quit was questioned and there were doubts on her commitment to work. Some of her women friends and family members had gone through the same dilemma of balancing their professional careers and raising kids. Despite high education and great career, sometimes women have to put a pause in their careers for the sake of other priorities in life. Jyotika felt strongly connected to women like herself who had taken the tough decision to take a break in their careers for the sake of their family. She also felt that it's unfair to be penalised for the choices women have no option for. She started to wonder if there is an effective way to utilise this untapped highly skilled talent pool.
That's when she decided to start her initiative relauncHER-- to bring experienced women professionals back to work. It is an initiative for bridging the gaps that are formed when women leave the workforce due to personal constraints. It aims to help women with their non-linear career needs and to remove the stigmas and biases against career gaps. relauncHER recommends returner programs, on-the-job trainings that provide an opportunity to talented returning individuals to re-orient themselves in actual work environment. Through these professional internship programs, women are able to acquire/ brush their skills sets and resumes. These programs provide on-the-job trainings and provide an opportunity to talented returning individuals to re-orient themselves in actual work environment. Such professional internship programs are equally beneficial for the employers to hire diversity candidates without compromising on the merit. These programs are non-binding in nature and give employers a chance to evaluate candidates on the job before retention.
One amazing success story of relauncHER is that of Anu. Anu in Kolkata left her thriving job in Chandigarh to relocate due to her husband's job transfer. Here is her story in her own words: "My husband was promoted and was asked to take over a new territory for his firm. I had to again quit a job that I loved and move from the city where I had managed to make a place for myself after much hard work. I have not been able to pick myself up for a long time since then. It is now, again after almost another two years have passed, that I think of having a job because I crave creativity, stimulation of that sort which only work can bring and also a group spirit. I feel suffocated and frustrated which often spills on my daughter. I think I scare her with the loudness of my voice I know I am better than that. I don't know if I have it in me anymore but I do want to get out of doors every morning with a purpose that is larger than deciding what to cook for dinner." relauncHER helped Anu get started as a freelance content writer. It gives her flexibility she needs for her daughter. She can work from anywhere is the world and continue to fuel her creativity and passion for writing. On account of women's day, we definitely need to change our mindsets towards women and not suppress them and take them for granted.