UPSC Essentials: Case Study of the week- Breaking the “maternity jinx” at workplace

An article that fits as a case study is a story from The Indian Express“Why we need moms for management lessons” written by Rinku Ghosh. Rinku Ghosh talks to some important women personalities in the society and helps us to understand some relevant issues. One such issue is how maternity is seen as a liability for working women at their workplaces, and why it is important to recognize women’s economic potential.

(Relevance: Case studies are an important part of the UPSC civil services exam, especially the ethics paper. These case studies can also be very beneficial for value addition in the essay, GS mains and interview. This particular case study is relevant for GS I and II- Issues related to women. Solve the MCQ given at the end of the article.)

The case-

Maternity is seen as a liability for working women at their workplace. If women want to take a longer break for their children, it is at the cost of promotion, important projects, or the job itself. Remember the latest Tanishq commercial where the protagonist quits her job to take care of her newborn for 14 months and decides to re-apply for another job after a break. The interviewer gets impressed by her answer that she devoted herself to the start-up project of birthing and taking care of the child. She gets the job. That is a television commercial or a film. What about reality?

According to a study by the Genpact Center for Women’s Leadership, 2018.

1. 50% of working women in India left their jobs to take care of their children at 30.

2. Many of those returned to work had dropped out within 4 months of joining.

3. After becoming mothers only 27 percent of women advanced in their careers

4. Only 16 percent of women who returned to employment after maternity, advanced to hold a senior position.

The issue-

Women’s economic potential versus gender policy. Women should have stakeholder-ship in the economy and should be considered a viable human resource.

The problems-

1. Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 allows 26 weeks of paid leaves after childbirth. Its indeed progressive in intent but works well only for big companies. But in a post-COVID world, smaller companies like MSMEs and start-ups facing cutthroat competition are facing difficulties to allow paid leaves to mothers despite good intentions. So, these companies choose to hire men instead.

2. Women in the unorganized sector don’t stand to profit from the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017.

3. A woman returning to work after a gap year due to maternity has to reconcile to reduced roles vis-à-vis male counterparts who have overtaken her space.

4. According to Ritu Dewan, founding member of the Center of Gender Economics- in public organizations, the allocation for maternity schemes and creches has come down.

The solutions and suggestions:

1. See motherhood differently. It chisels women as a professional because it springs up to life force, empathy, collaboration, and dedication. Women need inclusion and acknowledgment of their abilities, not sympathy for birthing a child. In fact, maternity prepares a woman for the worst challenges and firms up their commitment. It is the fastest way to acquire skills.

2. Learn from food delivery company like Zomato. It has a unique support system, assigning an employee to assist a new mother, so that she is not required to be physically present.

3. There is a need to have a gap management structure where companies and organization can build processes to handle maternity breaks.

4. Give employers an incentive to hire more women in form of tax benefits, some schemes or additional benefits.

5. For true integration and inclusiveness of women at all levels, there needs to be an attitudinal shift and a reorientation of these govt. policies at the implementation level. It’s time we do away with typical questions at the hiring desk—’When do you plan to settle down?’ or ‘How many kids do you have?’ etc.

6. The Code of Social Security, 2020 promises that the central government will set up a fund for women in the unorganised sector. State governments should also set up and administer separate social security funds for unorganised workers. If implemented it is can be seen as an effective solution.

7. Husbands to be seen as partners. There is need to have gender parity in child care giving roles. Both men and women have to decide how willing they are to shoulder spousal roles jointly. Team playing is important not only in companies but also in homes.

8. As Ritu Dewan mentioned in Rinku Ghosh’s story, there is a need to redefine maternity as a fundamental economic right because women are bringing the nation’s future workforce. Look at women as a force of economic potential- as valuable, investable human resource.

Beyond the case:

Look at the women in the rural areas. Women organize themselves as a true economic unit which is remarkable-

1. India’s ASHA workers among six recipients of the Global Health Leaders Award at World Health Assembly. “ASHA (which means hope in Hindi) are more than 1 million female volunteers in India, honored for the crucial role in linking the community with the health system, to ensure those living in rural poverty can access primary healthcare services, as shown throughout the Covid-19 pandemic,” said a release from the World Health Organization (WHO).

2. Similarly, examples can be taken from women’s self-help groups and women-run co-operatives where women have proved their economic potential.

Point to ponder: In the professional space there is a need to see motherhood differently. Discuss.

MCQ (attempt after reading the article)

Consider the following statements and select the correct option-

1. Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017 allows 26 weeks of paid leaves after childbirth.

2. Women in the unorganized sector don’t stand to profit from the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act 2017.

3. Article 41 requires the State shall make provision for securing that just and humane conditions of work and for maternity relief.

a) 1 only b) 1 and 2 only

c) 2 and 3 only d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer for previous MCQ: UPSC Essentials: One word a day – Stagflation- (a)


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