Crushing the Barriers: Part 1

A Leadership Development professional with a niche specialty, Mahzarine Jehangir- Jogani is at the top of the game when it comes to Diversity and Inclusion. With over 15 years of experience, she has spent a considerable time at Tata Sons Ltd., HUL/Unilever and contributed on a global scale across Leadership Development, Employer Branding, Talent Acquisition and Management, Performance Management, Compensation & Benefits, HR Business Partnering and Diversity & Inclusion. Some of the high notes in her career include the setting up of India’s first Returnship Program with Tata Second Career Internship Program, leading the D&I agenda for Unilever - South Asia and starting the Winning Balance initiative aimed at helping women on a career break rejoin the work force. Today as Director-Leadership Development and Diversity & Inclusion at ProEves, a company that aims to shift the needle on gender diversity in the workforce through concrete, fact based solutions, she is passionate about female talent, driving attraction, retention and development, and putting in place long-term enablers for an inclusive culture. As she rightly puts it, “If you’ve been blessed enough to identify what you love doing, it stops feeling like work.”

During her career, she has seen highly qualified women taking what they believe is a short break in their careers, only to struggle and often be treated disrespectfully when they wish to reintegrate with the workforce again. Moreover, as they progress through life stages, they often wish to work in different formats (a.k.a. increased flexibility) than their early career.

While a lot of factors for this are external, she points out, “Some of them are internally imposed and often based on cultural conditioning and expectations, rather than the woman making a choice that is aligned to what she may really want. It often starts small, with women making location choices based on personal factors like her fiancé’s location, or opting for roles that don’t require much travel, or following her husband’s career to various locations with no expectations of it ever being vice-versa. Some of these internal barriers are so deeply entrenched that a woman might not even be aware of the slippery slope she is getting on when she first makes this ‘choice’, without realizing the series of such ‘choices’ that will be made around Marriage, Motherhood and Moving basis your spouses career.”

Explaining these factors further, Mazharine lists the internal and external hurdles in a woman’s career.

  • The Indian eco-system is still largely designed around the assumption that at least one family member—usually a woman—is available at all times to manage domestic and family care responsibilities. From school Whatsapp groups, bhaji wallas to the timings when service providers such as plumbers, carpenters, etc. are available. It’s part of a larger assumption that childcare and home care are primarily female responsibilities. The combination of the cultural and environmental factors often leave women in the corporate world feeling constantly guilty and anxious!
  • The actual break up of childcare and home care responsibility. Research has shown in recent years Indian women have stepped up more outside their homes than men have stepped up within their homes. While the new age dad is certainly more involved with ‘Daddy-duty’ vis-à-vis diaper changes, PTA meetings, etc domestic care still lies almost exclusively the woman’s responsibility. This does not mean that the woman has to physically cook and clean but even if she is a CEO at work, she will be the one getting a call at 10am from the cook asking which Dal and Sabzi to make. Men in similarly senior roles in Corporate India are unlikely to have faced this.

‘Feeling ready to take on more’ is another internal barrier, wherein research shows that men are more likely to raise their hand for promotions they don’t feel completely ready for compared to women, who may be equally qualified and professionally ready for the role. It’s not a matter of confidence or abilities but rather of one gender having a need to feel more prepared than another.


To continue reading part 2 of this article, click here!

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