the leave provision by itself does not seem to help in curbing attrition. As
per the Women in Workplace 2017 report by and McKinsey & Company,
less women than men reported an interest in moving into top positions because
they were not up for the high pressures linked to managerial positions, which
can’t possibly support any working mother’s dual responsibilities. It was also
revealed that they were afraid to take advantage of any family leave policies
because they believed it would hurt their careers. Maternity phase therefore
creates a big dilemma for women- making them believe that they can either be
good employees or good mothers.



Clearly, women opting out of
workforce due to maternity is detrimental not only for their own careers but
also for the organizations. The chairman of the Tata group, Cyrus Mistry laid
out in clear terms the cost of women leaving the workforce, stating that
“When women are insufficiently represented in the workplace, we lose out
on 50 per cent of the talent pool. In an environment where human capital makes
all the difference between success and failure, this is a massive loss which
countries and corporates can ill-afford.” The most exotic policies around
women’s workforce participation seem to crumble like dust in the face of the
harsh reality of attrition caused by maternity. Even for the most logical
woman, going through maternity is a gigantic emotional roller-coaster which
throws her best-laid plans off-balance. Thus, organizations need to set their
priorities right and provide interventions that would help curb women

This study is an
attempt to answer the below questions that can help organizations in India, create
effective maternity policies:


are the real challenges faced by working mothers?

Is it
their own mettle, family support or organizational support that helps them take
charge of their career trajectories?

could be some real interventions that keep women motivated and engaged during their
maternity phase?



Literature Review


Several research studies have
attempted an understanding of the major reasons for the intermittent
interruptions in women’s careers and the effects of these on women’s career
advancement. They have highlighted that motherhood and its associated
responsibilities, family formation and family care affect the continued
participation of women in paid employment (Killingsworth and Heckman, 1986).

Women are relational by
nature, and they value being connected with others (Gilligan, 1982), and their
career decisions are impacted by how the important people in their lives will
be affected by their careers (Powell and Mainiero, 1992). The world over, there
is an increasing trend of women leaving their jobs, to care for their children
(Vanderkam, 2005). It is for this reason that, Schwartz (1989) conceived the
term “mommy track”, which refers to career paths mothers choose to allow them
more flexibility and reduced work time, with a trade-off that slows or blocks
career advancement. Women also get into “daughter track”, opting out of jobs
late in life to care for their dependent parents (Gross, 2005).



Webster (2002) observes that,
though family structures and the roles of female vary across countries, women primarily
continue to be responsible for domestic responsibilities, including being
caretakers of children and dependent adults. While some working mothers place a
higher value on family and childcare than work, others place greater value on
career and work, choosing an alternative, and sometimes, expensive quality
childcare options (Crompton, 1999). Working mothers’ childcare decisions are
impacted greatly by organizational, familial and societal support (McRae, 2003).

Cabrera (2007) who explored the reasons for women leaving the workplace also
reported that considerable number of women left their careers citing
child-rearing reasons, while mid-career women were most interested in having a
work-life balance and the desire for authenticity increased across the


Women managers consistently report significantly higher work-family role
conflict, that is often accompanied by higher physiological and mental strains
than men managers. The more work-family conflicts women managers report,  greater is their anxiety, irritation, and
depression (Greenglass, 1988). Research also suggests that women managers experience
greater stress than men managers due to childbearing, conflicts with their
partners, and several other family-related problems. This indicates that despite
equal career demands for both the partners, married women managers seldom
receive the support they need from the organizations and society (Davidson and
Cooper, 1986). It has also been observed that extensive family
responsibilities, especially those involving household activities, marriage and
childcare can impede women managers’ career achievements (Gutek, et al, 1988).

And usually, women respond to this problem by reducing their involvement in
work or worse by giving up on their career. Therefore, women do
opt out of careers due to parenthood and it becomes imperative to understand
the challenges and study the crucial role of organizational support systems in
helping working mothers to continue, uninterrupted, in their careers and in
maintaining a healthy work-life balance (Voydanoff, 2002).


Results indicated a
significant interaction between nationality and maternity leave choice for
ratings of work-family commitment priority (Morgenroth, T., & Heilman, M.

E., 2017). Career women in India
face different, and more difficult, work and family conflicts than do career
women in the west (Sekaran, 1992). They, additionally, experience significant
pressure prior to going out to work and coming back post work (Rout et al.,
1999) due to inflexible workloads and inadequate availability of childcare
facilities (Bharat, 2001). Also, internalization of the belief and the mental
conditioning that roles are gender specific prescribes completely different
life-options for men and women. For women, this life option implies
prioritization of family over work, whereas for men, it implies exactly the
opposite. In the Indian context, Rajadhakshya and Bhatnagar (2000) reported
that men are more committed to work or occupation than women and that
gender-role expectations and gender based socialization lead men to identify
themselves with ‘work-roles,’ and women to identify themselves with ‘family
roles.’ Women are expected to identify with the family and,
therefore, invest more time and energy resources to enhance performance in that
role. There is an inherent expectation that women should give priority to the
family over work which clearly suggests that women managers would experience
higher levels of parental role-overload than men (Aryee, Srinivas and Tan,
2005). It is therefore, mostly mothers, who sacrifice their jobs to meet the family
needs. In a study of 500 women employees of the IT sector in India, Madhavi and
Vimala (2011) observed that women faced work interfering with family conflicts
more than family interfering with work conflicts. Highlighting the influence of
a patricentric value structure of the family on their career aspirations and
motivations for work, Desai (1996) states that Indian women tend to impose
restrictions on their personal achievements or career aspirations for family
reasons and argues that keeping a low profile in one’s career enables these
women to be in both the worlds, i.e., work and family. The organizations which
assume that women will subordinate their careers to their family
responsibilities, are unlikely to invest in the hiring and capability-building
of women managers through training, assignment of jobs and sponsorship that
provide growth, power and opportunity (Devanna, 1987). 

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