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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Here's what women want from their careers

India has a uniquely dual attitude to women - on the one hand, Godesses like Lakshmi, Durga, Saraswati are venerated and yet, well into the 21st century, baby girls continue to be killed. Newspaper reports have pegged the figure as high as 10 million female foetuses, that have been aborted.

Among the women who are fortunate enough to be kept alive, fed, clothed and educated, there seems to be a burning desire to break new ground - almost as if making up for their fellow sisters, who never made it. In fact, research shows that Indian women are more career focused than their peers in Europe and the US.

The Shell Group recently surveyed 12,000 students and young professionals in 12 markets around the globe, including India, to gain a better understanding of the factors that candidates consider important, when making decisions about their prospective careers. The study found that although there are many similarities in what male and female candidates look for in a potential employer - there are still many significant differences.

Here is what the study highlighted about Indian women. According to the research, when it comes to career goals, Indian women are more career focused than their peers in Europe and the US. While in the US, 51% of women are more interested in keeping a balance between their personal life and career. They are also less interested in developing new products as compared to 41% of the men.

In India, the differences between men and women are small. When it comes to choosing the industry, 25% of the female respondents said that they prefer working in the automotive industry and 22% in aerospace as compared to 2% in consumer electronics, 6% in consumer goods, 5% in hotel restaurant, 5% in tourism, 18% in IT/telecommunications, 6% in management consulting and 4% in the oil and energy sectors and 0% in healthcare.

Meanwhile, Indian men are more interested in working in IT/telecommunications (25%), banking (22%), engineering and manufacturing (21%), engineering consulting and aerospace (20%), accounting/auditing, environmental conservation and government service (16%). Like their women, only 0% wanted to work in healthcare.

On the subject of what men perceived to be an attractive compensation package: 37% male respondents were more likely to consider performance-related bonuses, 30% considered company cars and 34% took profit-sharing to be important factors. Also 31% of the men found broad opportunities and 26% found an inspiring and innovative environment, as the most attractive factors.

So for men, it was all about the money, while not surprisingly, women went for a more holistic package. This could be because in India, men are expected to bring in more of the bacon, than their wives, and that shows up in the statistics. Also, women’s jobs are considered transient and dispensable, especially when children arrive on the scene. That’s exactly, when men are supposed to go into overdrive and be able to provide for more mouths. So, there is a certain logic that applies here.

When it comes to remuneration, the study showed that 26% women consider a potential employer's ability to provide childcare, 27% consider extra paid vacation/personal days and 21% take into account performance-related bonus, as important influencers in their decision-making process. When it comes to work quality, 32% women find flexible work hours, 37% consider good career reference and 33% considered varied assignments and responsibility, as the most attractive factors.

In fact, on a number of parameters with regard to what compensation package would make an employer more attractive to women – 34% Indian women thought that a company car provided to them would be a nice idea. The next 3 criteria they ranked highest were : 34% also thought profit sharing was a nice offer to make, 27% thought extra paid vacation/personal days off would be a generous offer, while 26% wanted childcare support at the workplace.

Now how do women abroad compare on similar concerns, as their Indian peers? Well, in the US, only 10% cared about having a company car, while in UK, 27% wanted the same. In Germany, 28% wanted a company car. This could be entirely due to the frustrating commute that people in India have to endure, as opposed to traffic that moves at an average of 80 kms an hour abroad. If anything is a wake up call to state governments about the infrastructure they are providing, then these numbers speak for themselves.

On extra paid vacations and time off, 48% of the women in the US wanted these holidays and 42% in the UK. These higher numbers probably prove that taking time out for yourself is not considered such a ‘woman thing to do’, while here in India, women are just slowly beginning to work towards the corner cubicle or toward a sense of job security, so demanding holidays may not be seen as the wise thing to do.

On childcare, 15% wanted it in UK, while 13% wanted it in the US. This also reflects the reality that, women in India have to depend on parents, in-laws, unauthorized crèches and trustworthy hired help to look after their children. While abroad, it is far easier to leave kids at regulated day care centres, where they know their children will be safe and taken care of. So, though, the wider parental support system may be missing, their society has provided an alternative.

In India, the need to rely on aging parents to look after grandchildren is a necessity and may be a trifle trying on the grandparents! But because it is family, it is understood and almost expected of them to be around to babysit the kids. So, if childcare is provided, it lifts a huge responsibility off their shoulders – and their working daughters realize that.

Now how does this compare with men and women globally? Well, a global average of 41% of female respondents, as compared to only 30% of males, said that their most important career goal was to achieve balance between their personal life and career. An average 54% of female respondents think it is very important, that their employer works actively with equality, against an average 33% of males.

While 55% of women consider it important to work with inspiring colleagues that treat them with respect against only 45% of men, who want this. When it comes to remuneration, the study shows that even at the beginning of their careers, 18% of women consider a potential employer's ability to provide childcare, 16% parental leave and 45% of women want healthcare benefits.

Whereas, 41% of the male respondents were more likely to consider performance-related bonuses, 30% wanted company cars and 33% wanted profit-sharing.

Indian girls with a graduation degree have higher goals in mind, than just getting married. Atleast, 44% said they wanted to tackle increasingly challenging tasks, as against 36% of their peers in UK and 32% in the US.

Also 36% of Indian women having careers want to reach the managerial level as against surprisingly, 30% in UK, 26% in the US and a low 21% in Germany. 35% of Indian women want to work globally as compared to 32% in UK and a low 16% in the US. Only Germany scores higher here, with 48% of their women hoping to work abroad.

So Indian women are getting adventurous enough to look at brighter futures for themselves on foreign shores, while women in the US are most likely, comfortable with their insular world. After all, they are working in the world’s largest and most powerful economy, so this may just be the reason for their unwillingness to consider jobs outside the US.

Source: Tables from Shell Group's study on gender equality and career aspirations

Written for www.moneycontrol.com


Paavani said...

That’s a good statistics and a good summarization.

What I found from my own observation, and listening Indian women views- they talks big, they go for higher studies but after a time, specially after marriage they become more considerate about family and other issues. What the dreams they own and the career they actually could make, not happen. While in case of men, offcourse not the same case.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say that though you have written the article about Indian women,the photographs you have used-I do not see any Indian women ! If only we Indain women could dresss up like that and go to office !!