Workplace culture or a lack of flexibility is making Indian working women miserable. Not only is the lack of flexibility resulting in ‘flexidus’ or an exodus of working women, it is also making the ones working fear exclusion. Social media company LinkedIn, in a recent report, stated that poor employer sentiment towards flexible working and career breaks is holding women back from asking for greater flexibility and re-entering the workforce.
Flexibility became a buzzword as employees moved to the confines of their homes amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Most companies switched to a complete work-from-home mode. So, one would think that this altered the outlook of companies in terms of work flexibility.
But the report states the contrary. While 8 in 10 or 83 per cent women realised that they want more flexibility, 70 per cent have quit or are considering quitting their jobs because they are not offered the right flexible policies. Moreover, 72 per cent of working women are rejecting roles that don’t allow them to work flexibly.
Two in five or 43 per cent women believe that flexible working improves work-life balance and helps them progress in their careers. One in three or 34 per cent said that it improves their mental health, and 33 per cent acknowledged that it improves the likelihood of them staying at their current jobs.
While, what women want is clear enough, they either face penalties or are reluctant to voice their requirements for fear of exclusion. Strong employer bias has put Indian working women at the receiving end, argued the report.
Nine in 10 or 88 per cent working women had to take a pay cut to work more flexibly, while two in five or 37 per cent had their flexible working request denied. The Microsoft-owned social media company pointed out also that one in four or 27 per cent struggled to convince their bosses to accept their request. Such unfavourable responses have made women reluctant to ask for greater flexibility, because they fear exclusion or being held back from promotions.
One in every three working women shy away from telling their clients (34 per cent), colleagues (35 per cent), and friends (33 per cent) that they work flexibly.
An overwhelming 77 per cent of working women also felt that a career break set them back. But these career breaks are also helping women upskill and boost employability.
Four in five or 78 per cent working women are taking career breaks to improve their well-being and to plan career changes, while 9 in10 or 90 per cent working women are using their time off to learn new hard and soft skills.
Despite the benefits, 77 per cent or four in five working women who took a break said that it actually set them back in their careers. This is due to the stigma attached to breaks, making it difficult for every second working woman (50 per cent) to explain the career breaks to recruiters. This has led many to exclude career breaks from their CVs (42 per cent) or lie about the breaks to potential recruiters (35 per cent).
Most women – pegged at 80 per cent, as per the report – wish there were better ways to represent their career breaks.
Ruchee Anand, Senior Director, India Talent & Learning Solutions, LinkedIn said, “This is a warning sign for companies and recruiters to remove the stigma surrounding the need for flexibility and career breaks, and introduce stronger flexibility policies if they don’t want to lose top talent.”
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