Organizations of all sizes around the world are tackling the challenge of gender diversity in the workforce. Though progress has been made, women continue to be underrepresented at every level.

Recently, on International Women’s Day, my company, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, announced its newest initiative aimed at tackling this important topic. We launched the ONWARD program, which is designed to provide a clear road to career re-entry for individuals who have taken time away from the workforce.

A recent study by AVTARfound that almost 48 percent of all Indian women professionals under the age of 30 take a career sabbatical and yet only 15 percent end up returning to the workforce.Few years ago, I became one of the 15 percent of women who successfully returned to the workforce following a career break.

Through the ONWARD program, we are aiming to improve that percentage by offering a ten-week paid program for experienced professionals to perform the ordinary responsibilities of their position while also receiving development training, leadership coaches and mentorship. Following the successful completion of the program, ongoing employment is available.

The leaders involved in creating this program are committed to driving its success and expansion. Krishanan Harishankar (Hari) is the Vice President of Engineering, Architecture & Corporate Functions and leads the Global Digital Technology Centre (GDTC) in Bangalore. He recently joined Kimberly-Clark and was eager to build diversity on his team. This year, the GDTC will welcome more than 120 new Kimberly-Clark employees. Hari recently said, “We want to build a team that represents the best and brightest in our community. We acknowledge that some women find it incredibly difficult to return to the workforce. That’s why we are very proud to launch this program as a solid road to workforce re-entry for women.”

Kimberly-Clark has a long-standing commitment to diversity and developing women at all levels of the company. We truly believe, when diversity wins within Kimberly-Clark, our consumers win. Even before the launch of this formal program, Kimberly-Clark offices in India hired and welcomed back women who took a career break like Vijaya Priyadarshini, Senior Manager of HR & Talent and Roopa Rao, UX Solution Engineer.

Vijaya says, “Realizing that my work matters and that my absence was felt made it feel like I made the right decision to come back to work.” Roopa has taken three career breaks over the past 20 years. After her most recent break, she returned to the workforce with Kimberly-Clark. Roopa says, “Kimberly-Clark has been a great place to work. They trust employees and provide the freedom to drive progress. Here, I can work within the limits of my personal life, but still pursue my career ambitions without having to choose between the two.”

When a professional departs the workplace, they take their knowledge, skills and capabilities with them, but those skills don’t go away. Through ONWARD, we are committed to empowering professionals to restart their careers and bring their talents with them.

Personally, I knew there would be a learning curve when I returned to work, but I felt supported every step of the way. During my tenure at Kimberly-Clark, the work environment, supportive colleagues and new opportunities allow me to continue learning and growing. It felt rewarding to return to work and I am hopeful other women throughout India can experience that same rewarding feeling as theycontinue to follow their dreams.

Kimberly-Clark has plans to expand the ONWARD program and host a series of career comeback workshops for women seeking to reenter the workforce.

Rasika Malhotra

Director- Human Resources,
Kimberly-Clark India

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