5 women in India share their perspectives
In India, less than 30% of working-age women are currently employed, compared to 80% of men. While bias and safety concerns play a part in this, the most overwhelming reason for this skewed gender representation lies in cultural conditioning and expectations.
Women in India bear the lion’s share of domestic and child-rearing responsibilities. Because of this, they often have to prioritize their personal responsibilities over their professional dreams. Research indicates that Indian women spend up to 352 minutes a day on housework. This is 577% more than men, who spend 52 minutes on average. The women that do work outside the home rely heavily on a robust support framework of domestic helpers, nannies, day care centers and even extended families and neighbours.
The unprecedented events of this year effectively cut off the country’s working women from their all-important support system. And they found themselves struggling to balance their lives and do justice to all their responsibilities. On the professional front, India’s culture is heavily focused on people and personal interaction. As a result, business in India traditionally relied on personal communication. When the country went into lockdown, most white-collar workers had to suddenly adjust to a completely remote working model, conducting meetings and consultations virtually. Collaboration tools and a robust remote working infrastructure helped ensure business continuity and a relatively stress-free working experience for most women.
2020 will go down in history as the year when the world changed. As the boundaries of the personal and professional merged and clashed, women in India met the challenge head on and balanced their professional and personal responsibilities efficiently. How did these real-life superwomen do it all? And how did technology help them? Five women from across VMware in India share their stories.
As consumers of our own VMware technology, our transition to remote working was fairly seamless. Our technology infrastructure and business continuity protocols helped ease some pressure for our teams and enabled them to better balance all of their responsibilities.
As Smita Ojha points out, “It was IT preparedness and timely communication about the available resources which made work and collaboration seamless and effortless. We were quickly prepared to meet the challenge of working remotely, and ready to also help customers adjust and adapt to the situation effectively.”
In addition, many like Mrinal Hedau now view remote working as a preferred workplace model. “There is no doubt that human interaction is important at the workplace. However, VMware’s in-house solutions and capabilities enhanced the virtual collaboration experience. Now, colleagues from around the world are just either a call or message away.”
The Balancing Act
Of course, the work-from-home life takes some getting used to, especially when the entire family is suddenly homebound with nowhere to go and—potentially—nothing to do. To be productive and efficient during this time, working professionals had to establish new routines.
As Pushpalatha G P explains, “In the initial days of the lockdown, I was overwhelmed at the prospect of delivering on my professional role and also managing domestic responsibilities. But once the initial panic subsided, I focused on working out a schedule that accommodated all my responsibilities and my team’s availability, accepting that the regular 9-5 wasn’t going to work.”
For others, the unprecedented challenges meant a joint effort to help manage all responsibilities.
Lakshmi Gayatri Kundem's husband and eleven-year-old child got together as a family to discuss long-term sustainable working solutions. “The mantra we followed is ‘keep it simple!’ Each day, we plan and share responsibilities. This helped manage our home and work needs efficiently. Even at work, while the number of meetings increased drastically, we tried to keep them short and with enough time left to complete tasks. As the days went by, I realized that my productivity increased, too.”
The Future of Work
Even the toughest critic of the work-from-home model had to admit that with the right technology infrastructure, remote working can provide business continuity and business security. Remote working models can also lower physical office infrastructure costs, address issues such as traffic congestion and air pollution, and provide access to a wider talent pool. But for people who thrive on the buzz of a busy office, the possibility of an increased remote working future presents some pros and cons that they need to think through.
Take Alka Pendharkar,
“I thrive on the in-office buzz. And while I do not miss the commute in rush-hour traffic, working remotely initially left me feeling uneasy. But regular check-in calls helped me feel connected to the team. I now think the ‘new normal’ is growing to be a preference, and collaboration tools make up for the in-office experience. I am confident I can bring my best self to work, feel connected with colleagues and still make time for my workout routine.”
Focus on the Good
The current circumstances are still far from ideal, and each one of us is adapting every day. But our teams found the positives to focus on. Smita, Mrinal, Lakshmi, Pushpalatha and Alka are just some of the women we connected with. There are so many more within our own organization and outside who have had to deal with this unprecedented challenge in their own way.
As Indian women continue to navigate these uncharted waters, technology will emerge to be a key ally, an effective enabler of remote working and a powerful force for good. At this juncture, it is safe to say that the nature of work will not be the same again, and we remain deeply committed to nurturing a workplace ethos that allows every member of our team to thrive.