By Manas Barpande:
“I went to work after five months of maternity leave, with a mixture of excitement and apprehension, but the reception which I got shocked me to the core. My male colleagues hated me as according to them it was unfair that I got maternity leave while my seniors looked down upon me. For them, I could no longer handle major responsibilities; I was just a liability for the company,” says Neha Sharma (name changed).
Motherhood is a blessing. It’s one of the most important phases in a woman’s life; however, in the contemporary corporate culture in India, it’s perceived as a hindrance – a ‘bump’ in a woman’s professional career. While a sector of corporate India is adapting to gender-sensitive policies for working mothers, most of the companies, big and small, still discriminate against women when they announce that they are pregnant.
A recent survey by BBC has also revealed that almost 69% of the working women didn’t come back to work after their maternity leave – which is a huge number! The question one must ask is, what could have really triggered this development? Here are some of the major factors behind this:
First and foremost, Indian companies have always had a cynical outlook towards women. When the working women get pregnant or go back to work after maternity leave, they face various problems. Many of them are denied promotions when they come back, as the maternity tenure is taken as zero or average performance in a performance based appraisal process. The majority are denied important roles and projects and they have to do with the leftover or less important projects.
The second factor which kicks in is guilt – a majority of women feel guilty when they have to go to work, leaving the child in the hands of a babysitter. Most companies, in both private and public sector, don’t provide women enough incentive to come back to work after maternity leave. They don’t have any flexible working hours, or crèche services, forcing women to choose between work and home.
The third reason stems out as a byproduct of the patriarchal society in our country. Traditionally, there has been a tendency to give greater importance to a man’s job as compared to a woman’s. Women are socially conditioned to think that their primary objective is to take up the responsibility of bringing up children and not to build a career. So, even the companies are not willing to make special allowances to integrate women after they take a maternity break.
These factors are just some of the reasons why a majority of women are not able to continue their jobs after maternity leave. For these women, an internship can prove to be an important tool that could help them resume their careers.
An internship, by definition, is a short duration (8-12 weeks long) engagement, making it a perfect tool to transition back into the corporate world. An internship can provide the much needed ‘breaking in’ period when mothers finally resume their work again, much like the time they began their career in the first place.
Another advantage of going for an internship is the flexible work hours. The flexibility of managing your own work hours is the biggest relief a working mother could ever hope for – no more lack of sleep, no foggy-headed feeling, and no worries of the schedule being thrown off if the child gets sick. Add to it the emergence of part-time or work from home aka virtual internships, and you have got yourself a complete package! The feeling of physically missing the child and the constant worry about the feeding part is taken out of the equation.
Internships won’t just act as a stepping stone to their corporate comeback, but will also help them regain their confidence. Even the companies are slowly understanding the importance of this phenomenon. Apart from providing flexible work hours, childcare facilities, and sometimes even the telecommuting options, some companies have started specific internship programmes for these women. For example, Godrej has been successfully running a specific program called ‘Careers 2.0’ where they provide women, who had to take a career break due to maternity, a chance to return to the workplace.
On the occasion of Mother’s Day, Internshala in association with Kotak Mahindra, Directi, FedEx, TeachForIndia Godrej etc., has launched an initiative to provide a chance to all the working mothers in the country to rediscover themselves and make a grand comeback to the corporate sector. These participating companies will be providing paid internship opportunities to the women for various profiles and positions.
Details of this campaign can be found here. Let the women out there know about the opportunity enjoying the power and freedom of having a professional career once again.