Flexible working: A great career option for Women Professionals

We are all aware of the acute problem India faces with low and declining women’s workforce participation rates. According to the World Bank, in 2019, it was 20.3%, compared to 76% for men. Participation rates are even lower in urban areas and among educated women.

While especially acute in India and South Asia, women’s workforce participation is a global problem.

There are many factors behind it, from gendered roles in societies to lack of good child care infrastructure. However there is one factor that if corrected for, can change the workforce constitution: the integration of flexibility in work. By flexibility one means an entire umbrella of offerings including part-time, flexi-time, remote work, project-based roles that can open up opportunities to women who are unable to participate in the full-time workforce. It is one factor that in today’s time has strong tail-winds behind it, with increasing digitisation, a mindset supportive of remote work, and a need to go where the talent is.

How does flexible working impact women professionals

FlexiBees (www.flexibees.com) is a platform that helps talented women return to work by matching them to roles and projects sourced from businesses that want experienced talent via flexible models. Recently they conducted a third party administered survey with two segments of women: those working flexibly and those looking for flexible work. The idea was to objectively determine the impact of flexible work on women professionals. The findings were revelatory and the full survey report can be read here – ​​https://www.flexibees.com/resources.html.

Key highlights as below –

A huge boost in confidence in own ability and skills

The survey showed us that the women professionals working in flexible roles felt significantly more confident in their own abilities and skills, when compared to those women who were looking for flexible opportunities but hadn’t found them.

Increased agency and respect in families and communities

Equally powerful was that they felt confident in the roles they played in their families and communities, the say they felt they had in important decisions, and that they felt they were good role models for their children

“We always knew intuitively that working was great for women, their confidence, their power & agency. Our intuition was validated completely this time, with an objectively conducted research by a 3rd party agency”, said Rashmi Rammohan, COO and co-founder, FlexiBees, and the conceptualizer of the research.

22% increase in household income

On the financial front, the women who worked flexibly felt more independent, better able to contribute in meaningful ways to meet family financial obligations and responsibilities. In fact, they said that their flexible jobs enhanced their household income by 22%. This was the weighted average of all the responses, whereas for 20% of the respondents their household income increased in the range of 25-50%. This is significant ​​given that in India women’s contribution to GDP is at 17%.

Top spending areas for income from flexible jobs

A great long term career option

A majority of women professionals in flexible jobs agreed strongly that  flexible jobs are a good long term career option for women who do not want to be in full time work, they help keep their skills updated, and to continue with their careers without taking a break; they felt that a flexible job enabled them to balance their career and other responsibilities

What do businesses think of flexible models and talent

FlexiBees also conducted a survey with businesses, their own clients and others, to understand their opinions, behaviors and triggers for flexible hiring. 70% of the respondents were SMBs with less than 50 employees, and 96% of the respondents were senior management, those in charge of company direction and hiring policy. The full survey report can be read here – https://www.flexibees.com/resources.html.

The biggest take-away was that this group of companies are strongly inclined to hire talent via flexible arrangements, and to create workplace policies that support flexible working.

  • Specifically we saw that of the roles added in the last year to their organizations, 51% were flexible in nature
  • Additionally, every single business owner or head said they would consider hiring flexible staff in the coming year (including those who have never hired flexibly)
  • They hired flexible talent across all levels, with 74% of companies having flexible talent in mid and senior levels, and 50% of them at Junior levels

“This shows that women can join back at any level, if flexibility is provided. Flexibility has the power to fix the leaky pipeline of Women dropping out from the workforce, and nurturing women leaders that is good for business and the economy as well”, says Deepa, Co-Founder, FlexiBees.

  • 56% of the companies have either already made organizational policy changes to enable flexible working or are considering it. These policies are across HR, Hybrid Working, Technology Infra etc
  • The top outcomes that companies experienced due to hiring flexibly were around time savings due to faster hiring, agility in responding to a business need, and less need to train due to experienced talent with good work ethic. This last point is very interesting because it plays to the strengths of the huge segment of educated and experienced women professionals, who are keen to restart working, and who bring with them high commitment and professionalism.

“This pool of talent i.e. women professionals, especially mothers, is one that any company would benefit from. They are experienced, professional, and driven. In fact, we ourselves at FlexiBees hire from this pool, our team primarily comprises talented women who have returned to work after a break and work with us in a mix of part-time and full-time arrangements, but all a 100% remotely”, says Shreya, CEO & co-founder, FlexiBees.                            

Flexible working is here to stay and is a great way to help get and retain more women professionals in the workforce, as well as help businesses hire experienced talent via affordable and agile models.

If you are a woman or know someone looking for a flexible job download the FlexiBees app.

If you are a company looking to hire flexible talent, please fill out the form here.

Additional information

Number of women surveyed

The research was conducted with two main categories of respondents

1)   Women who are currently working in flexible jobs – these are women who have been placed in flexible jobs through FlexiBees – base size of 57

2)   Women who are currently not working in any capacity, but are actively looking for flexible work – the base size of 100

Some pictures

Flexibility in work has far-reaching benefits across stakeholders
The three co-founders, alumni of IIM Bangalore