Getting Back to Workforce after a Break is a 2 Way Street: Nandini Sabanayagam, Fujitsu

Fujitsu has multiple policies, and the support system to promote gender inclusivity such as work from-home, flexi-working hours, extended maternity leaves, sabbaticals, and day care facilities

From a homemaker to a professional, a woman plays multiple roles on a daily basis. In order to help women juggle through various commitments, the industry has framed several guidelines and yardsticks. However, there are some strides women could take as well in order to stay relevant in this fast paced IT industry. In an interview with DataQuest, Nandini Sabanayagam, Head – Application Services, Western Europe at Fujitsu, sheds light on what the industry is doing for women, and what women themselves must do to come back after career breaks.

How has the perception towards women in the IT industry changed over the years?

In my view, in the last 2 decades we have had a significant percentage of women graduating in technical studies. However, the challenge has been in the numbers of these women entering the workforce and remaining for more than 5 years. Nevertheless, we are now seeing a surge in the number of women entering the Technical workforce. But, the issue of women continuing in the same, beyond 5 years, persists.

Women are often not considered for leadership roles for they have added personal responsibilities. What must companies do to ensure such gender discrimination does not take place?

Subtle biases such as this are often difficult to address. Companies can provide support systems such as child care crèches, flexi-working hours and work from home facilities along with maternity benefits. In addition, promotion processes should constantly be monitored to ensure women are proportionally represented in the panels as well as in the candidate pool. Companies should also factor in the different approaches men and women take for career growth.

When women decide to make a comeback from career breaks, they are considered invaluable or outdated. What are the collective efforts needed to be made to improve this scenario?

Getting back to workforce after a break is a 2 way street. Women (or any employee for that matter) need to consistently work at keeping their skills updated and keeping themselves abreast of industry developments. Coming back after a long break requires a conscious assimilation period for the employee, and companies can support this by way of immersion programs, coaching and mentoring programs for a few months. Employees who are joining back should be very clear and realistic in their expectations that such a break could potentially slow down their career progression pace when compared to erstwhile peers.

What would you advise women to do during these breaks?

During career breaks, it is important to stay updated on technical skills through trainings and certification. The break time could also be smartly used to learn new skills for a career change. Equally important for the women is to stay connected to their professional network and take advantage of the many tools available online for these.

Some of the gender inclusive policies in Fujitsu

At Fujitsu, we have multiple policies, and the support system to promote gender inclusivity. This includes work-from-home, flexi-working hours, extended maternity leaves, sabbaticals, day care facilities for young children, lactation rooms for nursing mothers, annual health checkups for women, access to counselling, and zero tolerance policy for harassment. All of these are supplemented with recurring sensitization of managers.

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