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BENGALURU: Indian companies are rolling out “returnship” programmes to empower women seeking to rejoin the workforce after a career break.

Companies across sectors–pharmaceuticals, insurance, technology, financial services and renewable energy–are accelerating their focus on second career programmes as they look to tap into a non-traditional but experienced talent pool, and also move the needle on gender diversity numbers, said executives of talent consulting and diversity firms.

Titan, Yubi, Razorpay and Tally Solutions are among a clutch of companies that recently introduced initiatives to provide training, mentorship and work assignments to returning women workers, initiatives seen as helping them rebuild their skills and confidence.

At the end of these programmes, some participants are offered full-time jobs while the others go back with project experience, which enhances their chances of employment.

In 2016, only 30 firms in a list of ‘100 Best Companies for Women in India’–prepared by leading diversity, equity and inclusion consulting firm Avtar Group–had programmes to hire returning women workers. This year, the number has increased to 83, and they have collectively offered jobs to about 500,000 women, said Saundarya Rajesh, founder–president of Avtar Group.

‘Sequal’, a returnship programme rolled out by Titan last month, provides a platform for women on a career break to ease back into the workforce through project-based assignments.

“Many women who’ve taken long breaks are seeking opportunities to return. While they’ve been away, technology and consumer behaviour have changed a lot,” Swadesh Behera, chief people officer at Titan Company, told ET. “Sequal fosters a supportive environment where women can rebuild their confidence, gain relevant experience and exposure and expand their network. This helps to overcome self-doubt and isolation they often face when re-entering the workforce.”

Earlier this year, software firm Tally Solutions rolled out ‘Reboot with Tally’, aimed at enabling women to explore their potential with opportunities that align with their skills and expertise.

The company is also offering training and mentorship programmes suited to specific skills and competencies, while skilling efforts have been undertaken across verticals like engineering, traditional marketing, digital marketing, sales, and data analytics, said Naganagouda SJ, chief people officer of Tally Solutions.

Similarly, unified credit platform Yubi rolled out Back2EPIC for women technology professionals seeking to re-enter the workforce after a career break. Some members of the first cohort have since transitioned into full-time roles at the company, said Tanya Mehan, head of diversity, equity and inclusion, and employer branding at Yubi.

For the next cohort, set to start early next year, the startup plans to expand the talent pool across multiple roles, including tech and data, and broaden its target cohort to include individuals from minority communities.

Earlier this week, ET had reported that fintech unicorn Razorpay has rolled out a returnship programme for female professionals on a break.

Meanwhile, Genpact, Accenture, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Hexagon are some of the other companies which have put in place second career programmes.

With most companies facing talent shortage, returnship programmes are seen as helping fill that gap and offering training to women whose skills may have become obsolete, making it a win-win proposal for both companies and female professionals, said Rajul Mathur, consulting leader–work and rewards, WTW.

Women typically pause their careers in their thirties to either raise children or care for family members. Companies say such women represent a very capable talent set which can be brought back into the workforce with adequate training and hand-holding.

There is also a post-pandemic normalisation of women who took a career break, said Mansee Singhal, partner, rewards consulting leader, at Mercer India.

“Companies supporting women returning to the workforce addresses labour shortages and increases female representation in the workplace,” said Singhal.

  • Published On Nov 27, 2023 at 08:11 AM IST

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