Leaning in, with a helping hand

How multinational corporations are helping female employees push the limits of the glass ceiling

Soumik Kar

Sameer Khanna, vice-president and head, HR, Ericsson India

Ericsson has a target of having women account for one-third of its workforce by 2020. We have begun hiring more female candidates in the fields traditionally dominated by men. For instance, this year, Ericsson has added 50 women — all of them are experienced graduates from different engineering colleges across India — to its operations team, which had an uneven ratio of male to female employees. This is apart from placing women in other departments such as operations, radio access network, transport design and optimisation, network integration, network design, customer support, project management office and operations assurance. 

We haven’t stopped at just increasing the ranks of women on its rolls; the company pays a higher referral bonus payout for referring women candidates. We have something to offer every subset of women workers, including working mothers. The objective is to help working mothers get through the first few months after childbirth. All eligible female employees can request up to 90 days of extended maternity leave in addition to three month’s maternity leave. And in case an employee needs a little more time, the company entertains requests for up to three months of flexible working hours after the extended maternity leave.


 Rohit Thakur, head, HR, Microsoft India

We have launched a collaborative programme called Reach Out with five of India’s leading companies, under which six to seven senior women leaders identified by the participating organisations would form a group of 31 women to be groomed for leadership roles. The eight-month long structured learning programme will include group workshops, peer learning circles, leadership dialogues with senior leaders from other participating organisations, a moderated online community to ensure continued dialogue and would conclude with a learning summit where participants will share their collective experiences. 

Our YouthSpark programme gives high school girls the opportunity to learn about careers in technology. The initiative is aimed at girls in the ages of 12 to 14, ensuring they have sufficient time to prepare and make relevant choices for their careers. We also have a Spring Board programme which encourages women techies who have taken a career break to come back to work. On offer are reskilling and mentoring, flexible working hours and an option to work from home or any other tailor-made solution that techie moms might need. We also have partnered with an agency dedicated to diversity sourcing to reach out to a broader set of candidates.  

Farah Nathani Menezes, head, diversity and inclusion, Godrej Group

The Godrej group has an inclusion programme that runs across its companies. One of its principal areas of concern is attracting, retaining and developing top female talent, so that it has a robust pipeline of potential leadership. For instance, Godrej Properties (GP) has increased the representation of female employees from 16.5% three years ago to 25% at present. While the company is undertaking initiatives to make GP an attractive place for women to work, the recruiting team ensures that there are high-quality resumes from women available when a position opens up. Consequently, we have good levels of female representation across functions as diverse as sales, business development, IT and design — beyond perceived traditional functions, like HR. 

We will launch two employee resource groups that will enable workers to interact across companies and develop support networks; the first is a working parents group and the second is a women’s leadership network. Both these networks will be supported with periodic training, guest lectures and workshops to address the issues that each group may encounter. Godrej is also starting to create goals for itself in terms of female representation in its workforce, which it plans to track closely each year. 


BP Biddappa, executive director, HR, Hindustan Unilever

We recognise men and women leaders who create a diverse, respectful and flexible organisation as leaders of the future. Leaders across functions are recognised for providing opportunities to team members and identifying and addressing barriers that could hinder employee career progression. 

The company is focusing on balanced hiring practices, adequate infrastructure (such as daycares and creches) and flexible work practices. The diversity council comprises of senior leaders and provides inputs on retention and development of women employees, helping shape policies and practices that build an inclusive culture.

 In addition to a best-in-class maternity and paternity leave policy and a state-of-the-art daycare, we support employees going on maternity leave by holding their profiles for them. It has also launched an integrated online portal called maternity and paternity support (MAPS), which helps employees and their line managers during their period of transition using various tools, guidance and resources. There is a also a career by choice programme that helps people work according to the timeframe that works for them and also helps ease people who might have taken maternity or other breaks back into the regular work-life.