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How are the career development goals of India’s Women Employees evolving?

 The last few years have changed the way the world works, as we have witnessed a never-before-seen health crisis that has resulted in an unexpected hit on many industries. People all over the world were forced to make life-changing decisions in order to deal with the economic crisis. Disruptions from the COVID crisis, have ushered in a monumental shift in working strategy across India and highlighted specific weaknesses in the dynamics of the workplace culture that otherwise might have been overlooked. The last couple of years were solely focused on accepting and adjusting to the new normal and the overall lack of human connection are taking a toll on mental health. A recent survey by Oracle and Workplace Intelligence- AI@work survey revealed 80 percent of the Indian workers have been impacted negatively during last year. A prominent finding to note here is that 34% of females were negatively impacted as opposed to 30% of males. The disparity in data suggests that the women workforce faced additional challenges. Female employees, clearly, had to bear the extra burden of personal responsibilities during the nationwide imposed lockdowns. This has resulted in mental health issues, as the burden of personal and professional obligations combined with the added stress of health crisis created immense pressure. The same study showcased that over half of the women participants would like to reduce stress at work (52%) and increase their happiness at work (57%).  Additionally, 49% of women said prioritizing mental health contributes more to their meaning of success now.

In terms of changing employee priorities, the definition of success has shifted in the last couple of years as factors like healthy work-life balance, learning, and development, mental health, have gained precedence. The poll also found interesting data around the meaning of success, 48% of women believe that having a meaningful job is more important to their success than a steady paycheck. This suggests that women employees seek roles that add more value to their lives and provide happiness rather than just monetary benefits.

As our economy grows, it is evident that the workforce desires to advance in their careers. Indeed, career development remains the high point for the Indian workforce, with 61% stating that having access to more career development and skill enhancement opportunities helps improve motivation at work. This includes 66% female workforce as compared to 59% male workforce); and it increases their happiness at work (Female – 57%, Male – 54%). These findings also shed light on the fact that the women workforce is more inclined towards career development and putting learning first in their careers. A staggering 63% of women respondents said having access to more career development opportunities helps them feel valued at work.

The essence lies in unlocking others’ potential, and women today want to become more vulnerable. They want to learn and grow, and they are looking for organizations to help them do so. 43% of women (from the findings) aspire to take on a new role within the company. The question here is how organizations can ensure that employee stress management and workplace happiness are prioritized. The CHROs must do thorough research on employee needs, desires, and responsibilities to develop decisive and efficient strategies to support the growing female workforce. For female employees to discuss their personal feelings, CHROs must first account for personal struggles and implement methods to provide mental health assistance. It is worth noting that mental health struggles affect both men and women, but at the same time, we must also consider the fact that women have more responsibilities in our country, despite many years of struggle we are yet to achieve balance or equality.  Keeping this in view, organizations must ensure that women employees are provided with a platform where they can candidly discuss their struggles and become more vocal, welcomed, and supported.

Workplace inclusivity and equality have been a source of contention for decades, and it is undeniably a pressing issue. Although we are not there yet and have a long way to go, we are seeing more women ascending to positions of leadership as they focus on technological advancement, continuous learning, mental and emotional well-being, and career enhancement. As for the women workforce redefining their position in India Inc., the current decade will be historic.

(The author Deepa Param Singhal, Vice President, HCM, Oracle Asia Pacific and the views expressed in this article are her own)

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