Sunday, January 17, 2010

A post for a friend - and many others like her

A dear friend posted in her blog, a couple of days ago, something that brought a lump to my throat. She’s a brilliant professional – great academic track record (a national gold medalist, no less), top drawer performer, highly regarded in her company. And yet she faced the same choice that confronts every Indian career woman – family or career. As 90% of Indian woman do, she chose family. She passed up an opportunity for career advancement. Others applauded her for her “sacrifice”. But as you can imagine, her heart was heavy. And she wrote this wistful post, which continues to tug my heart. I won’t link her post, as she may not want it to be too public, but you can more or less guess what it would be.

Another dear friend, wrote this sometime ago. The blogosphere, and terra firma, is full of such situations. This is something that confronts every single Indian middle class woman who has a career interest. In many cases, their husbands are incredibly supporting. They are not MCPs – they are sensitive and help as much as they can. And yet, the gut wrenching dilemma confounds every woman.

I am going to pass on the more familiar solutions – family support, nannies, etc etc. I am writing from the perspective of the employer.

I don’t think employers get it. They are missing a great talent opportunity which is under their very noses.

Let me tell you a story. I know of a lady who was hired by a company – both shall remain unnamed. This company wanted somebody to create a new function in the company. Something that was resisted by other departments, but one which the leader believed was absolutely necessary. In came a lady who had taken a career break for the same old reason, and was still not ready to come back full time. But the company said, that was fine. Come in part time. Work when you can. Work how and where you want. And this lady created something that became one of the pillars of that company. Because she was so good. Because she brought passion to the job. Because she brought commitment of a variety which is rarely seen. She worked her socks off. Home, office, everything. But she enjoyed the slogging because she wasn’t in an apology of a job, she was doing something very important, she was doing nicely in her career and she could see what she was creating. I don’t think the company would have achieved half as much with a full time traditional careerist (man or woman). They understood it. They promoted her. They put her on a fast track career path.

Employers – If you are listening, here’s a secret. Employees who have other commitments or handicaps, actually make better employees. I have seen this with physically challenged colleagues. I have seen this with single mothers. I have seen this with women who are juggling work and home. I have seen it in men who are widowers bringing up children. Pound for pound they are actually better performers. They bring passion and commitment – two qualities which are not so common in the business world. They actually work harder and more effectively. They can be more trusted upon. They show higher loyalty. They appreciate victories better and take defeats in their stride. And more often than not, they are better people managers.

So here’s the secret. If you are an employer, you should actually seek out such people. And not make my dear friend write a post like the one that has triggered this one.