Why amendment to maternity benefits act is historic and a potential game changer

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Working women in organised sector have been struggling with inadequate provisions in Maternity Benefits Act 1961 and an amendment was long due. Maternity amendment bill seeks to address most of the issues though not all. Proposed amendment would significantly improve the working condition for 1.8 million working women in organised sector in India.  Before getting into how this is going to benefit  all stakeholders involved such as working women, children, companies and economy of the country, lets briefly understand what key features of this amendment are:

  1. Duration of maternity leave: The Bill increases maternity benefit of paid leave from 12 weeks to 26 weeks.
  2. Maternity leave for adoptive and commissioning mothers: The Bill introduces a provision to grant 12 weeks of maternity leave to: (i) a woman who legally adopts a child below three months of age; and (ii) a commissioning mother.
  3. Option to work from home: The Bill introduces a provision that states that an employer may permit a woman to work from home.
  4. Crèche facilities: The Bill introduces a provision which requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide crèche facilities within a prescribed distance.  The woman will be allowed four visits to the crèche in a day.
  5. Informing women employees of the right to maternity leave: The Bill introduces a provision which requires every establishment to intimate a woman at the time of her appointment of the maternity benefits available to her.

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All of the changes above are actually solutions to the major pain points working women face in our country. Woman ‘s dual roles of a primary care provider/nurturer to the child and a responsible professional at work should not be at conflict with each other.Lack of support from govt legislation and HR policies at the workplace has been pushing working women towards a situation where  she is forced to choose between her career and child. With new responsibilities of child, a working mother desperately tries to make it work and continue working but when faced with inadequate support from available laws, company policies and child care arrangement, there is no option left but to quit her job. Amendment at least fixes part of the problem and is a great start in addressing the key pain points. Amendment itself should contribute to a significant reduction in number of women dropping out of workforce due to child care responsibilities. In addition to obvious direct benefits to working women, amendment could lead to following macro level benefits to other important stakeholder such as economy and companies in organised sector:

  1. Arresting the “leaking pipeline” of working women. Leaking pipeline is a phrase used to represent loss of women employees in organised sector.Between the age of 25 to 30, one-third of women move out of the work force and 30 percent of these never return
  2. Increase in GDP due to increased women participation in workplace.A study by Booz and Company estimates that if men and women in India were to be equally employed, its GDP could go up by 27 percent.
  3. Greater representation of women in C-suites and boardrooms. One of the key reasons for low representation of women in senior management levels is women dropping out at middle management levels. Out of the professionals joining at the entry-level, 29 percent are women, this number dwindles to 9 percent at mid to senior management and is less than 1 percent at CEO level (source: McKinsey data base)

key beneficiaries of this amendment are:

Working women

Women are forced by unfavorable work conditions and lack of support at workplace and home to  quit their jobs and exit the workforce bringing down their household income and aborting their career aspirations and dreams. This amendment solves some key pain points with solutions such as adequate paid maternity leave, work from home option and crèche facility. Amendment increases the odds for women to not drop out and continue their career, therefore  an increased possibility of realizing their full potential and reaching the corner offices and boardrooms.

Children

The biggest beneficiary of this amendment would be children. When it is prescribed for newborns to be exclusively on mother’s milk up till 6 months of age, how can maternity leave be less than this duration? A leave of 3 months was forcing many mothers to wean their new-born babies jeopardising a child’s development and long-term health. 26 weeks of paid maternity leave would ensure that a new born’s basic right of nurture by a mother is not denied. This would play a big role in addressing issues of malnutrition and infant mortality in our country.

Companies in organised sector

Gender diversity is important metric for all leading companies and higher educational institutions. Only legislation is not enough to increase the women representation at senior levels of management, companies  need to be more committed in improving gender diversity through implementing and measuring pro women policies and initiatives such as flexibility of work hours, function and role change options, part-time work, sabbatical, work from home and fair appraisal processes etc. Companies need to sensitize the male employees on special needs and child responsibilities of women in order to create an empathetic and sensitive work environment. Companies also need to ensure that women are not indirectly penalised or denied growth opportunities for availing the flexible work options.

All and all, the amendment is a good start and closes many existing gaps in Maternity benefits act and is one of the best news in recent times for working women and their careers.

Reference:the-maternity-benefit-amendment-bill-2016-4370/

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Role Model for Women : Hillary Clinton

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Hillary Rodham Clinton has many firsts to her name beside being the first woman nominee in a US presidential election. Hillary has been the first woman to become a partner at Rose Law firm in 1979 and first first lady to have a professional career. Hillary has been a role model in making for long and she has been promoting women’s equality and women’s rights at various forums. At UN conference in Beijing in 1995, she spoke the now famous quote “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights”.Hillary also had to go through the same life cycles like any other working woman. Adjusting and changing jobs or relocating places after getting married, slowing down to look after young child and putting your own career and ambitions on hold to support an ambitious husband’s rising career. Hillary has done it all. Most of working women go through these stages and but very few are able to realize their full potential as evident in scant numbers of women occupying top offices in any stream. Very few women are able to break those hardest and highest glass ceilings and storm into the boardrooms or topmost offices. Hillary has done it and women across the world can learn some very valuable lessons from her life journey.

It is never too late

Woman have to make compromises in their balancing act between family and career responsibilities. Many a times, a woman takes a break or if lucky, keeps the job but intentionally slows down her career progression by refusing opportunities which would create a conflict in her personal life. This conflict could also push a woman to take the hardest decision of choosing between career and family because both can’t exist together. After a long break , many women think that it is too late to go back to work or they are too old to go back to study to re-skill and advance their careers.

Hillary has proved that it is never too late to pursue your dreams. Hillary is running for US presidency at an age when most people are retired and living a relaxed life. She knows she is not at peak of her physical strength and age is on wrong side but this doesn’t deter her. You have one life and it is never too late if you are ready to work hard to fulfill your dreams and aspirations.

The importance of self belief

To believe in yourself and to dare to dream are at heart of many success stories. Women need to have the courage and determination to keep pursuing their aspirations and to not give up. It needs immense self belief, hard work and emotional strength to keep going on through everything life throws at you and not give up on your career aspirations. Hillary has reinforced that what matters most is to believe in yourself when it feels that no one does. World is full of doubters and skeptics but the most important thing is to never doubt your own capability and to have that infinite reservoir of self-confidence to pull you out of any crisis in life.

To not out yourself from the race.

This is one of key reasons why many women are not there in top jobs in corporate or elsewhere. Before anyone does, women out themselves from the race. Somewhere the prejudice that women are somewhat less capable than men has affected women’s self belief and women deny themselves those top jobs by choosing to not go for it. There aren’t many women in boardrooms or in presidential race primarily because very few women even dare to dream to reach that level. It is much more complex and harder to explain why it is so but the truth is that there are very few women who are even in race for these top jobs. To increase the number of women in top jobs, we first have to make sure that women don’t defeat themselves by not even taking part in the race.

Perseverance is the key. 

Never give up.It is one virtue which outdoes everything else. Sometimes just not quitting and hanging in there can lead to outstanding results in long-term. Many thought Hillary’s career was over long time back. She has not let many setbacks such as past failures, public humiliation at husband’s scandal and personal attacks on her looks, stamina, age, integrity affect her pursuit of her goal. For a working woman, challenges come in all forms such as illness of children, spouse’s career needs, inadequate family support system, societal judgements and self doubts. Women have to be relentless and keep moving forward .The march can be slower at times but if you keep walking  you would reach your goal one day. Never ever give up on your dreams.

 If Hillary is elected to be the first woman president of United States in country’s history of 240 years, she would shatter the toughest and highest glass ceiling. She would not only earn her place in history but also inspire generations of young girls in America and the world beyond.

 # Role Models for Women Series

Is it a myth that multitasking increases productivity? PART II

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“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” – Peter Drucker

In PART I blog of 2 post series on multitasking, I discussed about importance of productivity  and if multitasking is good for productivity. In this concluding blog, lets examine why multitasking might not be as good things as it is commonly perceived to be. Here is what we know from various research on results of multitasking:

  1. Missing out on the most important task: Multitasking can mean that you cannot prioritize correctly and hence miss on working on the thing which is most important.
  2. Decreased productivity: if you are multitasking, you could end up being 40% less productive compared to doing one task at a time.
  3. Decreased quality of work output: Multitasking might also result in poorer quality of work than if you do same work as single task because your concentration is divided among 2 more tasks affecting the quality of outputs.
  4. More time taken to complete a task: It takes more time to complete a task if you are multitasking and switching between tasks.
  5. Prone to making more errors: you are likely to make more errors on a task when you are multitasking than one task at a time.
  6. More stress and less happiness: Multitasking takes a toll. At home or at work, distractions lead to poor choices, painful mistakes and unnecessary stress. Multitasking is stressful as you are trying to do many things at once
  7. Distraction undermines results: When you try to do two things at once, you either can’t or won’t do either well. As per Steve Uzzell –“Multitasking is merely the opportunity to screw up more than one thing at a time.”

So what is the antithesis to multitasking, Doing one thing at a time.

“There can only be one most important thing . Many things may be important but only one can be most important – Ross Garber

Only exception where multitasking works to an extent is parenting at home. Sometimes there is more than one important task and both rank same on prioritization. Example – your toddler needs to go to bathroom and doorbell rings. There are multiple situations like this in a home with young kids. As a parent you have to handle all and everything is important but you could still prioritize these on basis of urgency and do them in a sequence and  then these tasks which appear to be multitasking actually become one task at a time.

“Success demands singleness of purpose” – Vince Lombardi

We need to figure out what matters most in the moment and give it our undivided attention. Extraordinary results are determined by how narrow you can make your focus. Extraordinary success is sequential not simultaneous. Success builds on success.Benefits of focusing on one thing a time

  1. Increases productivity as all your focus and efforts are on one task, results are better. “Nobody who ever gave his best regretted it.” – George Halas
  2. Increases quality of work as total focus and attention to detail would improve the quality of work and reduce the probability of errors.
  3. Declutters life and mind by doing away with constant distractions of multitasking.  This brings clarity on larger picture and smaller things that matter.
  4. Brings peace and tranquillity by focusing on one thing at a time and avoiding the stress and chaos associated with multitasking

We now know that multitasking is not good for productivity and it is in indeed a myth that too a very popular one. We also saw that for long-term success, we need to focus on the most important thing at a time and give task at hand our best. This way we would not only be more productive but also more content and happy.The key is over time. If we choose right and focus on doing our most important thing right – one thing at a time, slowly and over time it will accumulate to a big success.

 

Is it a myth that multitasking increases productivity? PART I

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“To do two things at once is to do neither” – Publilius Syrus

Productivity  and work life balance are frequently occurring topics on my reading list. I am always on lookout for tips and tricks to increase my productivity. There are days when I am very productive and then there are days when day goes by without getting much done. Incidentally days on which my productivity is high are the days I am happier, more content and less stressful. My pursuit for a happy and content life hence becomes an ongoing pursuit for being more productive. Productivity isn’t just for office work. Productivity impacts the way we live our lives, ultimately playing a very critical role in quality of outcome of our every endeavour in life right from brushing teeth to completing a marquee project. Any task attempted in most optimal and efficient way would lead to better result and higher satisfaction.

At the same time, we cannot press pause button on everything else in life and just focus on only one thing. So here comes the urban legend, the recent secret to being more productive – Multitasking. I have to admit that even I have been attempting to do more multitasking. In fact sometimes multitasking is listed as something women are naturally good at. Though at a higher level, women are multitasking like raising kids and managing a career can be an example but I would say these are not tasks, it is more of successfully managing two important tracks of life which run simultaneously.

In spite of the reputation of multitasking as a sure tool to increase productivity, my personal experience has been the opposite. I have always felt stressed and unorganized switching between tasks and trying to get even 2 things together. At end of such day, I have felt drained, stressed and unsatisfied even if I accomplished more than expected. The dissatisfaction comes from the fact that I know I did not focus completely on task at hand and my concentration was all over the place. The key to the contentment and satisfaction after a work is in immersing yourself into the work and knowing that you gave your 100%. Multitasking denies you this satisfaction.

Multitasking is a quality described as essential for success. It is considered a strength if you can multitask. Multitasking as a concept has become so mainstream that people think it is critical to someone’s success. More than 6 million webpages offer answers on how to multitask better and career websites list multitasking as a skill employers are looking for in prospective hires. But recently there has been another school of thought that says that multitasking might not be as good as it is considered to be.

In a research done by Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford University, in 2009 on multitasking, 262 test subjects were divided into two groups of high and low multitaskers. They began with presumption that high multitaskers would outperform the low multitaskers and to their surprise they were proven wrong. Multitaskers were outperformed on every single measure. Research results tore apart the hypothesis that multitasking increases productivity. In fact it does the opposite. Though multitasking is sometimes possible, it is never possible to do it effectively.

“If you chase 2 rabbits, you will not catch either one “– A Russian Proverb.

I will write about the how multitasking is not good for productivity and benefits of doing one thing at a time in my Part II blog of this series.