The last 2 decades of rapid economic development have created huge employment opportunities across industries witnessing a sharp increase in employment rate and the number of people employed than ever before. The workforce participation rate of women has increased from 17% to 24% in the last 2 decades. At the same time, large number of women who entered the workplace in these 2 decades have dropped off from the workforce due to work-life balance needs.It is estimated that there are1.5 million women in India who are actively seeking second careers willing to work on part-time, flexi-time and full-time basis.
AVTAR’s research study way back in 2005 led to the start of our service AVTAR I-WIN focussing on second career opportunities for women. Today we work with more than 20 organisations, helping them successfully engage with second career women. One of our several initiatives in this direction is SEGUE SESSIONS, India’s first large format skill building program for women on career break. SEGUE SESSIONS was held in Chennai, Mumbai and Bengaluru with more than 2000 women registering for the event and 800 women participating in the skill building program co-created with corporate organisations. A report on the SEGUE SESSIONS edition held at Bengaluru is shared for the benefit of our POC readers.
270 aspiring women returnees, with an average experience of 5 plus years, gathered at the Bangalore Segue Sessions 2012 edition, to re-ignite their second career. Each participant entered the hall with a lot of expectations, anticipation and curiosity at what will unfold at the day long program for career comeback women. The look in their eyes spoke “Is this the moment that I was waiting for? Will this event be the changing point in my life?” and as if answering their query Ms.Sandhya Vasudevan, Managing Director, DBOI Global Services, Deutsche Bank Group in her inaugural address expressed “Make use of your role model’s stories and become a role model for someone else…..”
A true role model herself, Ms. Vasudevan has been inspiring the participants in all the 3 SEGUE SESSIONS – Chennai, Mumbai and Bengaluru.Ms. Saundarya Rajesh, Founder – President of AVTAR Career Creators and FLEXI Careers India welcomed the participants, speakers and sponsoring organizations. Ms. Rajesh who has been instrumental in identifying the huge potential of this talent pool shared her own story of how she took a break for over 6 years when she was searching for a part-time or a flexi-time job.
According to a study by AVTAR, there are about 1.5 million women in the metros and sub metros looking out for a successful career re-entry. India’s first large format skill building program- Segue Sessions was conceived with a vision to reach out to this large audience of women professionals to fulfill this need – providing a platform to learn from top-ranked experts on skills essential to make a career comeback.
Inaugurating the Bengaluru Session, Ms. Sandhya Vasudevan encouraged the participants to be confident with her 3 point guideline for seeking career re-entry – 1) Understand that corporates want you – so don’t be apologetic about your break. 2) Decide what your priorities and choices are and make your career decisions accordingly and 3) Network not just for the social aspect, but for professional results. Ms. Vasudevan eptimozes the corporate intent to bringing them back to work. The 3 Sessions has witnessed corporate participation from across Industries –Deutsche Bank Group, IBM, Genpact, MphasiS, Siemens, PepsiCo India, CavinKare, Hindustan Unilever Limited, HCL, Accenture, Kraft Foods, IFB, Scope International, Standard Chartered Bank, Club Mahindra, CapGemini, and Marico.
The fact that DBOI was represented by their Head of Diversity, Head of Talent Acquisition and Bengaluru Site Director conveyed the seriousness of that intent.Ms. Lula Mohanty’s (VP, GBS, Global Delivery Business, IBM India and South Asia) inspiring speech made her a role model for many. In her keynote address she presented a wonderful word-picture of her childhood and early years and how it impacted her as a woman professional and leader. “I think this is a very relevant program today for women. It is timely and is the right intervention between corporates wanting to get women back and women aspiring for jobs.” she said sharing her views about the event. Stressing on the ‘Me Vs We balance’, Ms. Mohanty urged every woman in the audience to practice discipline and focus. “Success is not final and failure is not fatal, so have the right attitude”, she quipped.
The corporate panel discussion that followed the Inaugural Session discussed in detail the opportunities available to second career women and the challenges that need to be overcome to seamlessly integrate them back into the workplace. Ms. Priya Joshi, Vice President – HR, Accenture India, Ms. Sangita Joshi, Co-founder and Managing Partner of EmPower Research, a Genpact Company, Ms. Sarah Traynor, Head – Human Resources, Bangalore, ANZ, Dr. Meenu Bhambhani, Head – Corporate Social Responsibility, MphasiS an HP Company, and Mr. Sebi Chacko, Head – HR, South Asia, Thomson Reuters India Services Pvt Ltd had a lively discussion on India Inc’s need for women managers.
The discussion touched on many key points to make woman’s career a sustainable one in organizations. The engrossing panel discussion was moderated by Ms. Priya Joshi of Accenture. The Q&A session in the panel discussion provide opportunity to participants to put forward their views, expectations and road blocks that they encounter during their comeback. For organizations, it gave them new perspectives to educate and sensitize their recruitment team in engaging with this talent pool. Ms.
Priya Joshi espousing her learning’s from the event said “After the feedback that we heard from the Segue participants regarding their experiences with recruiters and interviewers, we have decided to introduce a specific segment in our interviewer training program to educate people on expected and appropriate behaviors in interaction with returning women and men. We should be ready to roll this out over the next couple of months”.
After a thought provoking panel discussion the first workshop on the topic “Networking for a Segue” went on floor with the speakers- Ms. Shoma Bakre, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of EmPower Research, GENPACT, Ms. Keerthana Mohan, Diversity & Inclusion Manager, Google, and Ms. Deepa Parthasarathy, Solutions Product Management Lead, Cisco. Ms. Keerthana Mohan moderated the workshop ably, which ended on these vital points 1. Cultivate sustainable hobbies and make use of the power of networking which is immense. – Ms.Shoma Bakre, 2. Pick up the phone and make cold calls to Organizations. So what if you are on a break and don’t have a corporate visiting card? Print personal business cards for yourself which is an abbreviated resume of your skill sets. Use this to network – Ms. Deepa Parthasarthy. The session broke off for lunch by the pool side and it provided an excellent ambiance for the participants to network and chat with the speakers.
The hall was quickly again packed with enthusiastic ladies after lunch for the 2nd workshop of the day on Managing Internal Stakeholders via New ways of working, Ms. Sunitha Lal, Senior Vice President & \Global Head – Talent Management and HR – ITO Core, MphasiS an HP company, Ms. Puja Kohli, Head – Talent Management and Organizational Development, CGI, and Ms. Vasanthi Hariprakash, Radio, TV Personality and Media Trainer were the participating speakers of this workshop.
This workshop witnessed some valuable inputs from Ms. Sunitha Lal, who said “Be prepared and overcome the road blocks” The workshop energetically moderated by Ms. Puja Kohli ended at a lighter note from Ms. Vasanthi Hariprakash as she rendered an interesting speech which left the audience with smiles, and a laugh when she said “Be partially deaf to some of the not so important issues at home.”
The third and final workshop on Negotiating for a Win-Win earned good applause from the participants as the speakers Ms. Moushumi Bose, Director and Head of Diversity, DBOI Global Services, Deutsche Bank Group, Ms. Urmila Kulkarni, Head – HR, GSS GO DC – IN, Siemens Information Services Ltd., and Ms. Priya Gopalakrishnan, Director – Human Resources, ING Life Insurance India actually solved the various issues on negotiations which cropped up in the minds of the participants.
The session had some important points to be noted “What is your walk away point in any discussion or conversation?” asked Ms. Moushumi Bose. Ms. Gopalakrishnan further remarked on the importance of negotiation when she shared her negotiating chapters of her life, “I took 2 breaks in my career and both times I negotiated to get back in. It’s easy if you know what you bring to the table very clearly”.The workshops gave way to a free-wheeling chat on “Where do we go from here”.
The Chat between the participants and the corporate sponsors was facilitated by Ms. Rajesh who also addressed many queries on this subject. Colonel Sanjay Mishra from Genpact, Ms. Sunitha Lal from MphasiS and Ms. Moushumi Bose from DBOI represented their companies to present the opportunities available within their organisations. The participants got the chance to submit their resume and explore openings with the recruitment team in the Kiosk provided to the sponsors.
The SESSION ended with a vote of thanks from Sangeetha Rao, Ascent, Times of India. The SEGUE SESSIONS provided an excellent opportunity for women to network with the speakers, corporate representatives and other participants to explore potential opportunities. “A very self-introspecting energetic and useful session. The event has definitely helped me in thinking in the direction of how I can equip and develop my skill sets with the expectation of the industry while looking for the opportunities” said Alka Agrawal, one of the participants at the SEGUE SESSIONS.
“A great thank you to Ms. Saundarya Rajesh & her team for taking this up and putting up so much of time and effort in organizing this event for women. The Segue Sessions is itself a great concept and then actually making it happen for women is an even greater thing. I definitely benefited from it” voiced Sneha Jain. To sum up in the words of Divya, “It’s a very good initiative taken by AVTAR I-WIN, who gave me a good platform to re-discover myself ie., my strength & weakness and a way/path that I can go from here.”