Companies that have limited foresight and hire less women, will end up losing out on this consumer base as well as their products and services will not reflect empathy at the core of it. Sairee Chahal, Founder & CEO of SHEROES (women-only social network) shares her views with AsiaBizToday.
How has the lockdown impacted Gender Equality at work ?
The lockdown very much reflects the gender biases that already exist in our society, but it has further amplified the impact.
The emotional labour and physical workload of women has shot up as they tend to be primary caregivers in homes. With schools shut, they have had to quickly adapt to online classroom mode and understand how to engage children through the day.
Lack of access to doctors and medical support has been difficult for women and we have seen a rising number of queries in our health communities, attended to by our in-house doctor.
Cases of domestic violence, abuse and gas lighting have shot up and we are seeing a rise in conversations on our chat-based counselling helpline on SHEROES app. We recently brought out an in-depth, easy-to-consume financial guide for women emerging out of domestic violence. Resources like this are really helping our community members.
We have also seen a rise in interest in upskilling and embracing career reinvention as jobs and enterprises get impacted. We have curated several resources from live expert sessions and bootcamps, to focused entrepreneurship training modules for entrepreneurs on the platform. Entrepreneurs under SHECO our social commerce enterprise are undergoing rigorous training to enhance their skill sets for a post pandemic world.
Has this pandemic affected the course of the Gender Equality movement?
In many ways it has shone the spotlight on issues that exist but have been dormant in terms of visibility. Mental health has been a major conversation and lots of support resources have sprung up. Edtech has received a boost, with the upskilling revolution.
The world has seen many pandemics but this is the first one where the Internet, and specifically a women-focused internet, which we refer to as “Women’s Internet” is playing a seminal role in making all this possible.
From a point of view of the law, the anti-trafficking bill and others are being worked upon with renewed rigour in India. When the forces working on policy, technology, activism and on-ground support converge, nothing can stop the wheels of the gender equality movement.
Will working from home shift the paradigm for women?
Remote work in many ways in an equaliser for women who are often not able to physically step out of the home due to care giving responsibilities, lack of safety and geographical constraints. This has had an unfair impact on their career aspirations, finances and personal growth. Remote work solves many of these challenges, and will bring more women into the professional workforce.
SHEROES has been quietly investing in developing an all-women “workforce on cloud” in the last three years under the name “Managed Remote Solutions” (MARS), and this workforce has been serving businesses remotely.
10,000 women have been deployed on various processes, and the unit helps businesses scale up to 100-member teams in two days, and scale down just as fast. SHEROES MARS team manages all operations end-to-end and offers great value in terms of bottom-line, efficiency, sustainability and gender index.
Will the pandemic test an organization’s resolve in achieving Gender Equality?
The pandemic will definitely test an organisation’s commitment to gender equality. There are cases where pregnant women have been laid off with poor severance, and lack of empathy in the whole process, and general layoffs, as well. We are seeing medical and health professionals on the frontlines getting attacked – and women are always more vulnerable. The statistics emerging in a few months’ time will paint a clear picture of the aftermath.
In the opportunities section, I would say that more organisations can embrace remote work as a way to hire and retain more women. In the challenges section, organisations must adapt to changing circumstances with technology, and training tools to move workforce to the cloud, and also provide proper protection to those on the field.
What are the red flags that signal trouble for the movement?
When policies such maternity leave, which are fair and inclusive are rejected by organisations, and weaponised to hire less women, I see it as a lost opportunity. Companies that have limited foresight and hire less women, will end up losing out on this consumer base as well as their products and services will not reflect empathy at the core of it. Organisations who invest in women, engage with women, and recognise the work of women, will win in the end. All the statistics reflect this.