Navigating Career Growth & Breaks: Empowering Women in the Workplace

Navigating Career Growth & Breaks: Empowering Women in the Workplace

By: Darshana Shah, Chief Marketing Officer, Aditya Birla Capital

Darshana Shah brings 26 years of expertise in driving sales, marketing, and brand strategy; with a focus on gender-inclusion and empathetic leadership. Darshana has led marketing for Indian BFSI and retail giants.

In today's ever-evolving professional landscape, women are increasingly integral in driving innovation, growth, and success across industries. I am deeply committed to fostering an inclusive workplace culture that empowers women to thrive in their careers, whether navigating upward trajectories or taking breaks to prioritize other aspects of their lives.

Career growth for women is not just about climbing the corporate ladder

Career growth is about recognizing and harnessing women’s full potential, overcoming barriers, and seizing opportunities for advancement. However, the journey is often accompanied by unique challenges and considerations, particularly when managing career breaks.

Despite making significant strides in education and skill development, women still face persistent gender gaps in leadership roles and pay disparities and continue to be underrepresented in senior leadership positions. Addressing these disparities requires concerted efforts from organizations, policymakers, and society to promote gender equality, implement inclusive policies, and advocate for fair compensation practices.

Natural strengths of women to consider while they return from career breaks

While many of us look up to global leaders such as Indra Nooyi and Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, we must make efforts to improve everything starting at the grassroots level. While 45% of women choose “female-friendly” jobs under family pressure, around 60% of women face societal expectations regarding work-life balance. These numbers are alarming, especially when women have natural strengths that should ideally work in their favor.

Women are naturally good at cultivating empathetic relationships, have a collaborative approach toward everything, promote a positive team environment, have high cultural sensitivity, and are natural multitaskers. We must consider these factors when women return from their career breaks, taken to accommodate life transitions such as motherhood, caregiving responsibilities, or personal pursuits.

While taking a break from the workforce may seem like a setback, it can also present an opportunity for personal growth, skill enhancement, and revaluation of career goals. As leaders, it is imperative to create an environment that supports women during these transitional phases, offering flexibility, mentorship, and pathways for re-entry into the workforce.

How to empower women in the workplace, beyond flexible work and career breaks

While it is imperative to understand that women can have different needs, today’s diversity-focused organizations need to have “equitable workplace policies” implemented to focus on equal opportunities, inclusion, fairness, and transparency. Initiatives such as flexible work or “back to work” are not enough, if we still deprive women of growth because they took a break.

We need to also invest in mentorship programs and “Women for Women” programs, showcase and celebrate the achievements of women in every field, address unconscious biases through transparent policies on pay equity, and implement HR policies to create a nurturing support system and guarantee safety for women throughout their journeys.

We must also believe in fostering a culture of continuous learning and skill development, equipping women with the tools and resources they need to thrive in today's competitive landscape. By investing in training programs, mentorship networks, and leadership development initiatives, we empower women to build their confidence, expand their capabilities, and seize opportunities for advancement.

In conclusion, empowering women in career growth and career breaks is not just a matter of diversity and inclusion; it's a strategic imperative for driving organizational success and fostering innovation. Together, let us champion gender equality, break barriers, and build a future where every woman can thrive in her professional journey. I am committed to driving this mission forward and creating a brighter, more inclusive future for women in the workplace.