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  • She Says

Rajkamal Vempati calls for Gender Neutrality

  • JWB Post
  •  March 4, 2015


The head HR, ICICI Lombard GIC Ltd, Rajkamal Vempati, discusses in her article the urge to have gender-neutral policies, hence more and more men working alongside women in managing the family. JWB shares this article with you.

A few years ago, an employee submitted his resignation saying that he had to accompany his wife for her overseas assignment. As an organisation, while we supported his intent, we counselled him and asked him to go on an extended sabbatical and not quit.

Most organisations presume that women need to log off from work to meet personal requirements, e.g. maternity, supporting the child’s growth, taking care of parents’ health and other family responsibilities. Men, on the other hand, are expected to give more importance to work over family.

However with nuclear families on the rise, a trend is being witnessed where both men and women need to log off to manage responsibilities at home.While women tend to take sabbaticals during their key events, we find even men are sharing the load of family commitments with the working wife or supporting the parent’s duties for a while.

This trend is bound to increase with women participation going up in the workforce. Organisations have to acknowledge this trend and tailor their policies accordingly. Most companies these days have policies supporting part-time work or sabbatical and are genderneutral, which works. As in the case of the employee who was given a sabbatical, he returned from leave with the strong belief that the organisation truly understood and supported personal challenges faced by a male employee as much as by a female.There are similar instances where women have taken off for personal commitments and have been given equal opportunities on their return.To share an an ecdote, I know of a high-performer who had submitted her resignation stating that she wanted to spend the period of her kid’s transition from pre-school to full-time school completely with him. She was given an extended sabbatical.This helps encourage more and more women leaders to keep pursuing their careers without dropping off in-between.

Taking the case of gender neutrality further, along with the policies, organisations should ensure diversity through the leadership pipeline. Companies should review their performance and talent assessment methodologies. Typically, if valence is given to inputs like time spent at work, networking, fixed templates, ideal leadership profile ­ stereotypical biases creep in. Instead, assessment should be neutral to stereotypes as far as possible and should only focus on the individual’s strengths and performance outcomes to ensure that a diverse set of leaders is groomed to take on higher responsibilities.

Another vital step towards gender neutrality by organisations would be to ingrain it in the company culture and ensure its success is replicated across. Gender neutrality in policies and programmes and overall mindset is the differentiating lever in ensuring greater participation and nurturing of women leaders in the ecosystem.

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