IT is not the place for women especially young mothers

Okay, now before you question my intentions, let me make it clear. It’s not about women, I think they are very capable (much more than men most of the time), it’s about where we work and about our so called work culture.

Also this is not based my experiences inside Infy alone (a disclosure is required isn’t it?). I have spoken to many who work in top IT companies in India.

Lets be practical. Even if we talk loudly about equal rights/opportunities in India. 90% (good enough to generalize) of the working women has to work in two shifts. One at office and one at home. If you are a young mother then its 3.

The general working hours are around 9hrs/day. Even if I take the least amount of time to reach office it would be 2 hrs per day. Which makes it 11hrs. Remember, it doesn’t include time to reach bus stand, waiting for bus etc. That would make it 12hrs.

So you are left with 12hrs, out of which you obviously will spend around 6 hours ( again 8 is recommended) sleeping. So you are left with 6 hours, to take care of kids, home, parents (these are too be shared by both husband and wife. But be practical in 90% of the homes in India, only women do it) takes more than 6 hours.

Now you are in an IT industry, your work wont end at 5pm. You have onsite calls, customer calls, appraisal calls, firefight calls, status calls etc..etc. So you are taking break from your actual job (like spending time with child) to attend them.

If you are unlucky, you will be in a **development** project, with tight schedules (I haven’t seen one which doesn’t have tight schedule, yet), then you will end up spending your Saturdays in office too. That is another day lost, for your kid.

Take a break for 4/5 years. None of the IT companies care for young mothers. You don’t fit into their business model.

This is what I suggested to my friend who is going to be a mother next month. Am I wrong?

My advice would have been the same for young father too. Take a big break. There is nothing bigger than your family. No better time than now to spend with your kid. More than anything else its your responsibility. Take turns in taking break. Again IT industry doesn’t care about young fathers too.

Update:
Gartner study says:
“Women represent nearly 50% of the labor force and are improving their financial status. Many women will not wait for the traditional corporate ladder to come to them. “Paying their dues” is unappealing. Moreover, women are adamant about balancing their work, personal and family needs. If they must leave IT organizations to do so, while creating their own businesses and moving into other professions, they will.”
-© 2007 Gartner, Inc. and/or its Affiliates

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22 Responses

  1. ManojVasanth says:

    I completely agree with the last but one line. “There is nothing bigger than your family”.Finally its family which is gonna stay longer than money :)

    Nice write-up Thej. Its not only tough for them personally but,also effects their productivity at work.

  2. Vibha says:

    Thej thanks for raising this issue.

    It’s actually very hard for most women to take a break for a few years and get back on the career track. They end of getting pushed onto a ‘Mommy Track’ at work.

    A much better solution, both in terms of addressing women’s concerns and having a society where 100% of population is allowed to contribute (not just 50%), is to have employers organize the workplace in a manner that allows mothers and fathers to both work hard and also take care of their kids. Women IT professionals need to push their employers, and not just accept the status quo. Employers need to wake up and do a much much better job. Just offering a few weeks of maternity leave or limited flex time is not enough. Having day care facilities on the work campus, serious flex time, rewarding women role models are some initiatives employers can adopt.

    A message to young girls that becoming an IT professional is only an option for a few years and best left to the boys would be just awful. Having women occupy secondary positions in IT companies because they took time of is bad too. For serious change, women need to demand better support, and employers need to give it.

  3. Kalpesh says:

    I found this entry via S.Anand’s shared items & it is interesting.

    Isn’t the role of woman bigger because
    1) Working men spend much time at work and less at home.
    2) Women can make a choice & employers cannot push Women to do lot of stuff, she doesn’t want to do (specifically working longer hours, late calls etc, working on weekend etc)
    3) Men seem to be not clear/direct when it comes to working for fixed hours.

    In the West, they have somewhat good rules when it comes to work-life balance.

    Businesses don’t prefer Women here because of their ability to say “no”.

    Most problems are due to our attitude towards work (in IT).
    We don’t have work-life balance. How can we want the same for our subordinates?

    Culturally, it is a taboo thing if men starts taking a break from work for few years. Coming back into industry and acceptance of someone like that is a far fetched idea.

    For a few months gap in someone’s resume, people tend to look at the person as if – the person has some issues. Why would someone take a break? That’s what most people would ask.

    Gender is never an issue till we have basic rules established.

    Whether Men or Women, one should demand better work-life balance, sharing of responsibility at home (esp. for Men) to start with.

    How is it that companies in US are able to do that & yet perform better?

  4. Manju Shyam says:

    Hey thej,
    What u suggested to your soon to-be mom is true and very appropriate. They should have a ‘life’.
    Once you take break, it is very difficult to get back on track mainly due to the employer’s perception of people who take break. They forget the fact that we did have the caliber to perform well at work before taking a break. It isn’t a crime to take time off to care for self/family.
    People preach about “work-life balance”. Does it really exist in India -IT?? I do not think so. If we try and push for one, you are the odd one out and it reflects in your ratings/appraisals which in turn affect your compensation.
    US companies aren’t the best when it comes to work -life balance and better employee care etc, I believe European countries top there. But US is way better than India for working women.

  5. Rajiv Mathew says:

    One should ensure that work life balance happens at whatever cost.

  6. Thejesh GN says:

    @Vibha : I completely agree with you. Unfortunately we have very few policies which make work place *mother’s* friendly. We are already seeing the decline in strength of women in technology. There are institutions like Anita Borg Institute in USA which are working in this area. Unfortunately IT is an unorganized sector in India, let alone women in IT.

  7. Thejesh GN says:

    @Kalpesh : Yes, lot of it depends on leadership.

    I had a PM very early in my life who never allowed any lady in the project to stay beyond 7pm. So one day

    Me: You are very partial, you make us stay till 9 but you force the ladies to go home at 7.
    Him: Does your mother work?
    Me: Yes
    Him: Who cooks at your home
    Me: Okay. I got it.

    So its lot dependent on the team leadership. That is where people come before policy.

  8. Supriya says:

    Glad you raised this important issue for discussion, Thej. I agree with Vibha, that it is very difficult to take a break for an entire year, leave alone 4-5 years for either women of men. There should definitely be a balance between work and home not just for the woman but also for the man. If the man of the house comes home at 10pm everyday, it is obvious that t puts more pressure on the woman, as she has to leave early to not just take care of the kid, but also finish off household chores (though she could have stayed an extra half an hour to finish off pending work). If both the husband and wife reach a compromise on fixed schedules at least 90% of the time, it would be easier to manage both job and home (one-off cases of stringent calls during deadlines are unavoidable, I know).

    And anyone for that matter, woman or man – gets sidetracked in the IT industry after such a long break. They can never get to being what they deserve and reach the height that they dream of by either compromising work for hom or home for work. There are a lot of other constraints that we need to be cautious about before recommending generic solutions. In this fast paced era – where both husband and wife are in the software industry and live in metros, it is very risky for a large number of families to have only one person working to manage the household. Many people work coz they have to, and others work coz they want to achieve somethign big in life. You cannot sublimate one part of any particular industry for women, because they ‘may not’ be able to do justice.

    And regarding they dont fit into the business model, then business model “has to” change to incorporate fundamental necessities for any human being. Calls could be taken from home too. Other flexiblities need to be provided than opting for an easy way out, by not tackling the problem itself. Also, attitude of youngmothers need to change too, to quote family needs on each and every occasion – and they need to manage time if they want to aspire their dreams along with a nice family.

  9. On the dot Thej – yes, I would recommend keeping away from work as well. It is important for the babies to get mothers’ undivided attention at least for couple of years. The pressure to go to work can force you into many compromises(stopping breastfeeding, unknown maidservants etc.) which are not so good for the baby.

  10. Pramod says:

    Sad, but true.
    We have to keep aside money or personal ambitions. Otherwise we gonna regret this after 15-20 years!!! when kids grow up and screw up. Mother( And father also) is first teacher. If teacher herself is absent, he/she will pay fine in future!!

  11. Ashly A K says:

    Correct. The sad part is – how many families would be able to afford this ? Going behind big house/flat, car etc eat up most of the salary, and a double income becomes a must. I think people should re-think and discover house/car etc are not the real luxuries. I know a family, which pays around 50K + as EMI, and they just can’t think of any of them being at home with kids. It makes them slaves. So…sad.

    ot:

    But “This is what I suggested to my friend who is going to be a mother next month. Am I wrong?” – I think you are wrong. That would be next to next month. :) lol…just kidding.

  12. Thejesh GN says:

    @Kalpesh and @Vibha :  If you don’t know, the labor laws don’t apply to IT and ITES as of now. So biggies are not under the pressure to provide anything. Its not the same in USA.What we need at present is employee friendly laws and regulations.

    @Kalpesh
    “Culturally, it is a taboo thing if men starts taking a break from work for few years. Coming back into industry and acceptance of someone like that is a far fetched idea.”
    I think this idea is very old and very Indian. And I am happy its changing.

    @Manju Shyam : I haven’t taken many interviews. I stopped two years back. In what ever interview I have taken the “technology” and “personality” comes first. The breaks @ college, @ work, even the **big name** of the college never influenced me. Well that is another post :)

    @Supriya : Agreed. Where do we start it?

  13. Nishita says:

    Couple of years back I might have agreed with you.

    But the fact is the working env is changing. Today, many companies are encouraging people (not just women) to work from home.

    Women can choose the company they want to work for. If it is too far, quit and move to a company closer to home. Be willing to compromise when it comes to taking up/not taking up work.

    Above all, be realistic, efficient, and competent – at work and at home. There is no point trying to do everything, we will fail at everything!

    You don’t have to give up your job

  14. Thejesh GN says:

    @Ashly A K : Its not her :) this is a different friend of mine. But I would probably suggest her the same :)

  15. Pavanaja U B says:

    Thej,

    I agree with you. One person must sacrifice for the sake of family. In India, as is the case or by default, it is the mother (don’t call me a MCP). In IT, taking a break and then coming back is not easy -both for male or female. Atleast, women can give the reason. Whatever reason give by men will be looked with suspicion. I have seen many ladies in IT taking break for becoming mother and taking care of children. As rightly pointed out by you, it is difficult for them to come back into IT industry. Most of them go and join teaching profession. In a way it s good on many fronts. The profession does not demand the kind of time/pressure as in IT, the IT education sector badly needs good faculty, espcially, industry experienced. I am not advocating this. But I appreciate this.

    -Pavanaja

  16. Kailash C says:

    I am seeing a sort of solution already present in the day to day life for this issue. Also, this is not a problem that is concerned only with IT industry. If both husband and wife are working, they reside in a place very close to the office of the lady. So, the 12 hours which you mention for work actually becomes 9 hours. Also, parents of either husband or wife, stay in home and take care of the kid at-least for few years till the kid goes to a play school. I have seen myself, people hiring maids here in Bangalore to take care of kids when grandparents are not available. Few young mothers go to home in lunch breaks to see their kids. Technology plays another role here. Cellphones help them to check once in a while about the kids. Crush is another option available for little grown up kids now.
    Taking a break is a very good and healthy option for the kids. AS @supriya said, many work because of necessity than for satisfaction. Leaving a job now in this crisis is not advisable, if you have plans to join the industry back sometime in future. It could create a wrong impression, mind you. Recently, I went to pick up application for my neighbor’s kid LKG admission in a decent school. The application costs Rs500, donation is 40K and yearly fee is 20K. And Thej, you want the young mom to stay back in home.

    One more interesting factor I am noticing here is, no woman except @Pavanaja is willing to leave her job. Its all men who say,”Stay in home and watch the kid”. Though it is said in a good intentions, sounds as a agony of male dominating world. lol…..

    Kailash C

  17. Pavanaja U B says:

    @ Kailash C

    You said “One more interesting factor I am noticing here is, no woman except @Pavanaja is willing to leave her job”

    ha ha

    It seems you did not click on my name to see who I am. Please do now and will know :)

  18. Thejesh GN says:

    @Kailash C : I actually want young father also stay at home. And talking about education, I don’t believe in big schools or colleges,
    @Pavanaja U B : :)

  19. Kailash C says:

    @Pavanaja U B I am extremely sorry Dr, I am not a native..so I couldn’t get it.. I ll be careful next time.

  20. Lavanya says:

    joining in a little late in the discussion.. but these are my 2 cents.. the first 2-5 years for a child are the most important, just like the first 3 years are in our career.. whenever I have come across friends/colleagues who are faced with this dilema of whether to take a break for the child or pursue their career, I always prayed to God that I be given the strength to choose family over career.. it may be easier said than done, especially since I haven’t faced the situation so far.. but I also know friends who have had a second kid just to enjoy parenthood because they missed it the first around. It is probably a good opportunity to also pursue a hobby or may be learn a new language, like what one of my neighbours is doing..
    On the other hand, it pains me to see some ppl take the effort to go to work just for that bigger house or a better car!

  21. Radhika says:

    Easier said than done!
    Else we wouldn’t be seeing all those expensive day care centres all around the place

  22. Roshan says:

    Maternity leave + telecommuting for a short while after for reduced hours?

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