The mood was reflective and solemn. The informal and unstructured setting of the ‘Personal Growth Lab’ seemed to have sent its participants on a journey of self-discovery. No one spoke for a while. Moments, in which they forgot that they were away from home, from family, from loved ones – together here for a year-long management course for returning women. They were of different ages, they came from different parts of the country but they were all here to realise their dreams of having a career and breaking the glass ceiling one day. Each woman was alone, with herself.
Finally, A spoke up, barely audible…almost mumbling to herself “I haven’t been able to reconcile to this decision. Sometimes I feel that something is wrong with me…How could I do this?”
Everyone waited for her to continue, not interrupting her meditative moment. “I haven’t shared this with anyone…. In July last year, my husband had to travel to Europe for a fortnight, for an official trip. He asked me to accompany him, but the thought of leaving my two-year old, for two long weeks seemed simply cruel. Six months later here I am – I have moved from another city to Mumbai for a full time course. I have left my toddler with my parents. I won’t see her for months and I refused a European junket of 2 weeks.” Sobbing, she looked up expectantly at the group, for support. Teary eyed faces looked back at her.
In a society, where a woman’s worth is judged by her maternal capabilities and family commitments, crossing the threshold of leaving her child and family in the care of extended family or help, while she works or studies away from home, is an enormous step. This is what the promise of economic empowerment has done, for the participants of our ‘Returning Women Management Programme’ in Mumbai.
Investing in women’s education and upskilling them to navigate and manage the VUCA world of Corporate India, will go a long way to build capacity and a leadership pipeline. This is especially true for returning women, for whom the stakes are higher. This an area which is has been largely misjudged by India Inc. Synergies between Industry and academia can catalyze efforts towards creating a favourable ecosystem for women empowerment principles to be successfully employed by the private sector and bear fruit.
That Corporate India is a microcosm of our society is understood by all, what we need to reflect upon urgently is – how Corporates impact our social conditioning and the pivotal influence it can exert on society’s mental make-up. Sponsoring skilling and re-skilling programs for women, STEM related initiatives and campaigns, all women sales force development programs etc. will provide women the economic independence and voice they need besides having a pronounced bearing on their families and communities.
Women’s economic empowerment has a ripple effect on families, societies and the economy. A demonstrated to us that the burning desire already exists, now Corporate India needs to partner and take the lead.
By Anupama Kapoor
Anupama is a passionate exponent of women’s economic empowerment and a diversity & inclusion SME, with over 20+ years of experience, in Hong Kong, the US & India. She is the Founder of Reboot, a Mentoring and Coaching Career Community of returning women professionals, with a vision to mentor them through their journey back to the workforce. Anupama is an alumni of Gender Studies, Research Centre of Women Studies, SNDT and is currently a Consultant with the Women Leadership Programme at S.P. Jain Institute of Management & Research, Mumbai