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In this episode of our podcast Banking & Beyond catch Neha Bagaria, Founder & CEO JobsForHer share her journey of building startup aimed to reverse female brain drain from Indian workforce. She enables women to accelerate their careers by connecting to jobs, community, mentoring, reskilling & networking.


Transcript:

Devika Garg

Welcome to Power Conversations at RBL Bank. This is a special edition series where we are in conversation with inspiring women founders who will share with us their startup journeys. In today’s episode of Leading Ladies, we are very happy to welcome Neha Bagaria CEO and Founder of JobsForHer. JobsForHer is India’s leading portal that aims to bring women on a break back to the workforce. Neha after graduating from Wharton School of Business, founded her first startup, education startup Paragon. Thereafter, she has worked with a biopharma manufacturing company Kemwell. And in 2015, she launched JobsForHer. She has also been recognized by the Forbes India as 25 inspiring women entrepreneurs and trailblazers in 2018. Hi, Neha, a very warm welcome to you.

Neha Bagaria

Thank you so much Devika. It’s a pleasure to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Devika Garg

As someone who herself has taken a three years break, after a 15 years old career, I understand the importance of what JobsForHer does to get women back to the workforce. But I would like to know from you, what is it that you were trying to solve? And what inspired you to launch JobsForHer.

Neha Bagaria

When I started JobsForHer, it was for a very simple problem statement with a very complex solution, okay, which I was determined to find, which was that, how do we ensure that this entire female brain drain that is happening from the Indian workforce? How do we reverse that? Yeah, how do we ensure that the women who are dropping out these huge throngs from the workforce and by the way, about 50% of Indian women drop out of the careers within three years of starting work. How do we ensure that when they are ready to get back to work, we find them a path back into work? Yeah. And when I started delving into the problem & I realized that it was a very multi stakeholder problem, we had to make the case solution to the problem was to changing mindsets around that brick. So for example, when I started talking to women, I found out too much to my shock, that women were being advised that they need to hide that gap in their resume. Okay, it was almost like they were being made to feel ashamed about the fact that they had taken a break in their careers. And I was appalled by that. Because look at the reasons why women take a break. It’s usually because they want to be there for their families, right, most likely, it’s motherhood. It could be because they have relocated, it could be elderly care, all reasons that we need to applaud them and appreciate them, and make sure that they feel confident when they’re getting back. The second big mindset change that had to happen, of course, also mind of employers. Yeah. When we started talking to companies, there were enough companies who told us that, hey, we don’t want to hire mothers, we don’t want to hire a woman taking a break in her career. They don’t have updated skills. And then we started making them realize all the positives that that woman brings along with her. That’s when we started seeing change happen. So one important thing that we did when we saw JobsForHer was that we didn’t look at it as any sort of CSR or any sort of social reasons for which a company should hire a woman returnee. We went after it, as any business should, we made them realize why this was important for their bottom lines, and how it will help them grow better in their performance if we have this great talent pool joining them. The third stakeholder which was very important was also the entire education industry to make them realize how important it is for them to come up with programs by which they can reskill women who are on a break because these women usually have a great amount of experience, great amount of knowledge, they just need refresher courses to be able to get back and forth big stakeholder was families and society. How do we make the them proud that hamari ghar ki bahu or that woman in our house works, instead of feeling that, that’s a bad thing, and it shows badly onto them. So I think, frankly for the first four years, we only focused on changing these mindsets in a 360 degree in order to make sure that women can get back to work.

Devika Garg

Those are very important insights Neha and insights that I would like to delve deeper into with you going forward in our conversation. However, before we do that, could you help us comprehend? What is the Indian landscape like compared to the global landscape when it comes to women in the workforce, One? Secondly, what are the major trends that you see, or you can share with us regarding the same?

Neha Bagaria

The outlook is pretty bad. I mean, where India stands today, compared to the rest of the world is atrocious for our women of the labor force participation. Okay. In India, we have nearly 25% of women participation in the workplace versus a country like China, which has 65% and USA, which has 55%, Yeah. If you see the GDP contribution of women in India, it is amongst the lowest of all countries, even Middle East and North Africa is higher than India when it comes to GDP contribution by women in the economy. And, I mean, the biggest reason for this is extremely societal. Yeah. Because, frankly, the big problem that our previous generation solved, our mothers solved was to ensure that the education of the girl child problem is taken care of. 40% of the graduates are women, which is incredible. But out of those 40, women only eight even pursue a career, and then four dropout. So today, the mindset has been that, that education is important to find a good husband and not a good job. And once you found a good husband, your work is done. So, which is why I mean, the whole contribution of women to our economy is extremely low. But on the flip side, the potential benefit is also huge. I mean, there are reports that show that if we can get more women into the workplace, the amount that India’s GDP can rise is more than anywhere, any other country in the world. Yeah. So even though our current condition is very bleak, the outlook is very great. Yeah. And because we also have this talent pool, which is educated and capable, and ready to be able to participate in the workplace. Some other trends that we are seeing, which is actually making a huge difference to getting more women to participate, the workplace has been this big move towards work from home. Pre COVID used to always joke that companies behave like , flexibilities is the new effort, like this job and mentor, just don’t use the word flexibility in your job interview. But suddenly, COVID made everybody realize that hey this whole flexible working, working from home, it works. And in fact, it actually leads to greater productivity, greater employee satisfaction, and lowers the cost that companies have to entail when it comes to infrastructure costs, commuting costs, travel costs, etc. Now, because of that, I think your outlook of getting more women into the workplace is suddenly going to rise hugely, just because of the flexibility that they are going to have now in being able to balance all the different priorities that they have in their lives.

The other big trend that we’re seeing is the push of getting more women into leadership roles. So today, if you see the other graph, which is a very sad graph is that even those companies that have women participating in their workforce, they usually have about 30% women at the entry level, but that drops to 10% of the managerial level. And then, single numbers in the C suite. Now companies are realizing that we need to figure out how we can get more and more women into the managerial roles, and then work on developing that talent to leadership levels, because they realize that the kind of leadership skills that women bring on the table are extremely complimentary and extremely essential, given the time that we live in. So I think if you look at some of the trends of the future, you’re definitely going to have higher workplace participation thanks to flexibility and a push towards getting more women at leadership levels.

Devika Garg

So thanks, Neha for providing this insight, I think very valuable again, but I would also like you, to share with us, what are the changes or what policies do you see corporates now adopt that that will help attract more women talent and retain and grow that talent? Are there any specific policies you’re seeing come in play today?

Neha Bagaria

So absolutely Devika. In fact, you’ll be happy to know that every year, JobsForHer host something called the DivHersity awards. Yeah, where we collect information from about 300 plus companies across India, where they tell us about the different policies, programs, and initiatives that they have in place to be able to attract, retain and accelerate their women’s careers. And we’ve seen a lot of interesting insights coming in through that, and I’d be happy to share some of it. First and foremost, companies are looking at how they can have strong family friendly policies, not necessarily women friendly policies, because it’s important for us to realize that, hey, if we want women to succeed in their careers, we need the family to be able to also take care of enough of the kid caregiving responsibilities. So besides for maternity leave policies, for example, which in India is ordained to be six months, companies are also looking at having paternity leave policies, so that the spouse of the employees who they give paternity leave to will be able to get back to work sooner. They even going one step further, where they say it doesn’t really matter if maternity leave or paternity leave, they’re just calling it a parental leave. The other thing that companies are looking from a policy point of view are definitely looking at incorporating a lot of flexibility into their policies not being very stringent when it comes to that you have to be in the office from 9am to 6pm, from Monday to Saturday, but figuring out how can we have Flexi timings, Flexi venue, Flexi hours, etc, so that they can attract the best talent and retain them? Today the workplace is built by men, for men of men. Yeah. If we want that average working person to change from being a man, to being a man or a woman, we need to change the rules of the game. Yeah. So even the leadership development programs, they are understanding what are the core needs that women have? What are the obstacles that they have, which they are facing? How do we help them overcome that so that they can flourish as leaders? Or if you take networking rules of the game in the workplace. Prior to this networking is usually done in bars or over a smoke break or over both, again, by men for men. How do we change the nature of networking to ensure that women feel comfortable, it works with women’s lifestyles, and they get to benefit from it, because it’s so important to be to gain that accession into your career.

Devika Garg

That’s a very important comment that you made me her regarding GDP growth being directly proportionate to getting more women in the workforce. And I think this is something that the government also recognizes and is focused on. Having said that, Neha, do let us know, what are the kinds of roles and job opportunities that you see emerging for women on JobsForHer? Are these roles across various levels of seniority, across all types of industries, and across all types of categories? And by that, I mean, are these rows which are largely in the support functions, or the frontline functions? And how many of these are leadership roles that emerge for women?

Neha Bagaria

Devika, that’s a great question. And there’s definitely a big difference that we are seeing between different industry types, different companies, etc. I think this entire race to get a higher diversity in the workplace is definitely being led by the multinational companies. So the multinationals are doing huge amount of effort in terms of having a lot of different returning programs specifically for women, returnees having a lot of leadership development programs for women, having a lot of great family friendly policies to make it a very strong environment for women to get nurtured in. We’re also seeing a lot of large Indian companies also realizing the importance of diversity and start making that an important part of the agenda as they go forward. However, there’s still a lot of cultural mindset change that needs to be happen. Yeah, if I want to see the truth. In fact, for example, one of the companies that came to us, one of the large Indian companies that came to us, said that we are so happy and proud to tell you that we have done this entire research and survey to figure out exactly which jobs in our organization will be a good fitment for women, and we want you to help us source for those jobs. And, I was taken aback, and I told them that I’d love to get those jobs on the platform. But I actually want to get every job of yours on my platform, because there is really no job, which is not a good fitment for a woman. And I feel like those kinds of mindset changes still need to be pushed harder when it comes to the Indian companies. Here, I want to do a special mention of the fact that there are a lot of startups, yeah, which are very progressive, and they realize the value of having very strong committed dedicated talent in their workplace. In fact, one of the first returnee programs that I saw a startup launch was by PayU on the JobsForHer platform. It was great to see them also leading the force and saying that we want to get more and more women in our companies. Now, when it comes to the type of roles that I’m seeing companies go after more when it comes to women, there are certain areas where your pipeline of women candidates is lower. Yeah. So for example, when it comes to tech, you will have a huge number of women in more of your vanilla skillsets. But when you look at your niche skill set, there are less women there because of the need for constant upskilling and updating that is required, where if a woman has dropped out of the workplace, or if a woman has not invested in her constant learning, she’s not updated in the most latest technologies. So job so we are actually doing a lot of different initiatives to be able to upskill women to be able to match those requirements. But it will obviously be some lag, some time to be able to create that kind of pipeline in talent pool. Other areas where you see a lot of bias against this is not a job for women are of course areas like manufacturing. The government has also made it difficult for women to be employed many times in manufacturing because of the kind of stringent rules that they have for the shift timings, yeah, and what all a company has to do if they have to work in shift timings. Third area that we need to defunct of course, are things like sales, many companies will feel like sales is not a woman’s job. Even though frankly, a woman is fantastic at sales, like my entire sales team at JobsForHer is comprising of women. We are trying our best to get women to get more involved and sit at the table when it comes to the business side and the product side and niche technology side. But we are still some time away from that.

Devika Garg

No, I am completely, I’m with you on this thing Neha. In fact, one of my ex CEO used to be very clear saying that relationship management, I would like women to be at the front because they empathy makes them better at relationship management than men, which is a fact multitasking and empathy is known to be far more in women. Right? So this whole myth about women not being good at sales is actually a myth, and good to know that it’s changing. So Neha, one question, which is a driving question apart from gender parity is pay parity. And, I would, I would really like to hear your views about that.

Neha Bagaria

Sure. Yeah, that’s a very, very difficult area that absolutely has to be solved. Because if we want women to feel motivated enough to get into the workplace, work really hard and rise in their careers, they need to feel that they’re being compensated well enough for all their efforts. Yeah. And again, like anything, this is also a multi stakeholder problem that needs to be sought. First and foremost, it begins with that woman. Yeah, we’ve had years of training, where women are told to be humble, to play down their successes to make it feel like a team effort. So they don’t come to the negotiation table with a lot of I, I, I. Yeah. Second, there’s this big likability complex that we all have, we want our colleagues to like us, we want our bosses in like ours, we want everybody to like us. So we don’t then fight hard enough for what is it that we truly want and how we should be well compensated. We need to realize that both are achievable. Yeah, believe it, we need to be recognized as that fearless leader who made sure that she got what she deserved, and gain respect along with a lot of likes. Third is from a company point of view, where they need to realize that, what, a lot of problems have crept in, in terms of pay parity for many reasons, which were not badly intentioned. Yeah. At the end of the day, again, every interview is a negotiation. Now at that negotiation if that man has negotiated hard, okay, he has managed to get to start off at this higher salary. That woman has not negotiated she has been okay with anything that was given to her. So she has started a lower salary. And then that has become a problem year on year. Because every new job that you get into the first question they ask is, what was your last CTC, and they give you a hike on top of that. So companies need to realize that, hey, a lot of this needs to be corrected. In fact, one of the companies on our platform E&Y, they did a huge survey on this. And then in one shot, okay, they made sure all their women, were given the same salaries as the men, which is a big move to take, it is a big step to take. And in order to also do that, and to make sure that this doesn’t creep in the future. There have been in fact, in America, a lot of states where they have made it illegal to even ask an employee what their previous salary level was, because they want to stem this pay parity.

Devika Garg

Yeah. Coming to the time to make me how you mentioned that there have been significant changes that you have seen in the during the pandemic, right. What can you share with us, what are the key shifts that you’ve seen emerge in the pandemic? And also, do you think that work from home has been favorable for women in the workforce?

Neha Bagaria

So, Devika there is a short term answer to this question, and there’s a long term answer to this question. Yeah. In the short term, it has been really difficult. The pandemic outbreak has been difficult for everybody. But it has particularly been difficult for working women. Because now with schools becoming online, with everybody being at home, the kind of boundaries that we had between our work life and our home life and our family life, all those boundaries have gotten eradicated. Everybody is in their home, trying to find a space by which they can work and study. And that woman’s career somehow always takes last priority, okay, compared to say, the husband’s career or the children’s school or the family’s needs, the house, etc. So in the short run, it has actually been far greater struggle for women to be able to stay as productive as they were, when they were going into an office space. Yeah. And thus to be able to keep the jobs. But there have been a lot of other interesting trends that have happened during this time, which in the long run, will actually help us in getting more and more women into the workplace and love to like, focus more on that part. First and foremost, I think families have realized that that dual income is extremely important. Yeah. Because if the job of the primary breadwinner of the house has suddenly become a question mark, they have a trained, qualified, capable resource sitting in their homes, they need to figure out how do they get behind her career and get the double income into the family. And what women really need is the family support for the careers to flourish. So this has been a great time. Second, of course, work from home is a game changer. Yeah. Now, now that companies have been forced to realize that work from home works, they will suddenly not have this huge mental barrier that they had about taking women. Yeah. Third, when it comes to this work from home part, the kind of job opportunities that it has opened up for women who are also in tier two, tier three cities is also huge. Because now suddenly, companies don’t need that employee to be in the same city to be able to give them that opportunity. And in India, about 70% of women migrate after getting married. And a big chunk of those women are actually sitting in tier two, tier three cities where they have the capabilities, but they don’t have the job availabilities. So the kind of opportunities that they have now have also shot up and they can find jobs as well. Fourth, of course, has been this whole push towards digitization. Yeah, that’s an extremely big trend that has happened because of the pandemic. And we have seen a big shift happening on our platform because of it, suddenly pretty much every industry that we had jobs coming in from and not just tech, bfsi or education or healthcare or pharma, or manufacturing, retail, all of them are posting jobs for tech talent. Yeah, because everybody’s looking at digitizing themselves. So I do think that, when we have this conversation five years later, we will feel that this was a watershed moment that changed the trajectory of women in the workforce in India.

Devika Garg

I have a question to ask you. Would you still advise women to take a break? If they do take a sabbatical or a break, what are the tips that you would give to them while they are on a break, to keep themselves upskilled and relevant. My second question to that is, what are the tips that you would give to women who are coming back to the workforce after a break.

Neha Bagaria

So, Devika, I mean, look at us, I took a three and a half year break in my career, you just told me to the three year break in your career. And if I look back, and I want to redo that decision, I would take the decision to take a break every time. Yeah, I’ve actually extremely grateful that I had the choice to be able to do that. There are a lot of women who don’t have the choice, and they hunker down and keep moving, and which is fantastic that they managed to do it. It is extremely important as women that we also realize the importance and priority of all the other parts of our life. Yeah. And I really hope that in the future, like when my sons grow up, I have two sons, I really hope and they grow up, they feel the same way about their families as well. Okay, one day, I would want to have this conversation where we say that, is it okay for men to take a break. Yeah. Everybody should feel comfortable enough taking that break in their career, if they so need to. And that will only happen if we ensure that the route back is also smooth and painless. Right now, it is extremely painful. And, it is extremely uncertain. So one, I think it’s important to have some sort of end date to your career break, which can be based on a timeline, or it can be based on a milestone completion. Second is when you when you’re on that break, no matter how difficult the sounds, you need to just stay updated. Okay, stay updated. Again, the world of technology makes it so easy for us to do it. Yeah. Just make sure that every day for example, for 20 minutes every day, you’re reading up on what is happening in your area of expertise. So that tomorrow when you’re back from the break, and you were in like I was in marketing, I had no idea what digital marketing is all about. Yeah. If I just had stayed updated every day, knew a little bit, it wouldn’t feel so alien. Third, is try to keep in touch with this professional network of yours. Yeah, I know, it’s very difficult, especially because if suppose if you’re a new mother, all you want to talk to is you want to just talk to other mothers who how difficult and challenging these experiences, but make an effort to keep the network alive. It could be once a month coffee, catch up with your ex colleagues, your ex boss, a 15 minute phone call, keep it keep it alive. Fourth is, please upskill yourself, the best way to use this break is to find ways to upskill yourself and gain some more certifications, which will then help you in your future career. And of course, do never, ever feel the need to justify why you took that break, be proud. In fact, you need to flaunt the break. Yeah. Instead of trying to hide it, flaunt it. So tell them about all the kind of skills that you’ve picked up, life skills that you picked up.

Devika Garg

It’s been a very inspiring journey at JobsForHer. I mean, we’ve heard you speak so passionately about women and women career acceleration. But this journey would have had its ups and downs. So I would like you to share with us what have been your key learnings in the last five years? And have there been moments when you felt very challenged?

Neha Bagaria

Well, of course Devika, absolutely I don’t think any startup founders journey is one without its challenges. Yeah. And JobsForHer journey had just that additional challenge of the fact that we were trying to do something which, nobody has done before. And, people really questioned whether it really needs to be done, it can be done. So I think just keeping, like realizing that this is an extremely complex, difficult problem. And frankly, with every step of the way, the problem seems to become bigger, not smaller, because as we enter the first four years, like I said, we spent a lot of time in just figuring out how do we change mindsets around that career break yeah, we had a lot of headway over there. We got a lot of women to restart their careers, a lot of companies to start returnee internship programs just specifically for women returnees, a lot of educational companies to open up their doors to women returnees. So we saw a lot of headway over there. But as we completed that milestone, we started realizing the kind of problems that women are currently in different workplaces are also facing, I realized that if we don’t solve that problem, then also our solution to gender parity to achieving gender parity in the workplace is not going to be completed. And when we took along that problem that came up, we came with a whole different bunch of challenges. Because here we didn’t only have to solve from an external point of view for what that woman needs to do for her career, but also from an internal company point of view on how do we create these family friendly policies and programs within companies to help women accelerate their careers constantly keeping the naysayers at bay was very challenging. Getting that right talent pool, also into the organization, who will realize how important it is to create this high growth, kind of an environment coupled with the social impact, that balance between the two has been a very big challenge. And of course, top all of it, I myself had very little kids when I started JobsForHer. So there was this constant guilt and fear and, confidence that I had to overcome as well, to be able to get to where we are today.

Devika Garg

I think probably women and guilt, that’s the first thing that needs to be dealt with, when we are progressing in our careers for sure. So, Neha what has been your inspiration? You are an inspiring founder, an inspiring leader, an inspiring woman achiever? Who has inspired you?

Neha Bagaria

Well actually, my inspiration has really been Sheryl Sandberg. So when I was on that break, I read Lean In, of course I saw a TED talk then I read Lean In. And it’s actually the book that opened up my eyes into what is happening when it comes to women in the workplace. What I really loved about Sheryl’s, leadership brand is her honesty, and her candid, I mean, for the CEO of Facebook to talk about all the different challenges that she has had as a woman in the workplace, it just suddenly makes you realize that, hey, I’m not the only one. There are a lot of other women like me, who are facing this, and more importantly, who have overcome this. So I think that, just her honesty, her frankness, the way she has dealt with the different ups and downs that have happened in her professional career, as well as a personal life has been a source of great inspiration.

Devika Garg

Great Neha. Last, but not the least question which I would like to ask you is, what next for you? And what next for JobsForHer?

Neha Bagaria

This journey seems, this is a journey of 1000 steps. And I guess it starts with a single step. But I feel like I love Amazon’s phrase, which is that, it’s always day one. And even today, we will be nearing six years in March. And it still feels like day one. Because no matter how much work we have done so far, I feel like there is so much still to be done, it will take a lifetime to do it. But in the near future, what we really want to crack is ensuring that we can get more and more women in three specific spaces. One is getting more women to restart their careers, to get more women in specific technology roles, and to get more women in leadership roles. Because we feel like if we can crack these three, the others will be much easier problems to solve. And these are the areas where there are huge gaps that need to be filled. So first and foremost, we need to ensure that more and more companies are hiring women returnees. Second when it comes to women in tech, we need to figure out how we can get women to get upskilled in the latest technologies and get hired. And third is to figure out how we can get women in leadership levels from an internal point of view for companies who already have women at say, junior levels, how do we get them to go up? Or how do we also can create the candidate pipeline of women leaders for other companies who want to increase numbers at that stage. So these are the three areas that we will continue focusing on and hoping to solve.

Devika Garg

Wish you all the best with that Neha to you and the entire team of JobsForHer. May you guys go from strength to strength because the work that you’re doing and the change that you’re bringing about is extremely important. Thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been an absolute pleasure. And thank you very much for this extremely insightful and inspiring conversation.

Neha Bagaria

I really, I really enjoyed the chat as well, so thank you for this.

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