Mothers can continue with their career if they are assured of good education for their children, in the safety of their homes
There is no doubt about the fact that we need to retain more women in corporate. I have said this before as well. As we all know retaining more women means helping them maintain a work-life-balance, at least when they go through major life-changing events like getting married or having a child. Whether we like it or not, it’s not easy to do a full time job and take care of a baby. Some flexibility is essential.
Until now, whenever we talked about ensuring more work-life balance, to hold women employees back in the workforce, the demand for adjustment fell squarely on the corporate, who are the employers. We wanted corporate to give more flexibility in timing, allow extended leave post maternity, earmark projects that require less travel or less evening hours, etc. We even wanted corporate to start their own Day Care Centers such that parents can drop their kids off in those day cares and work more peacefully. But as we all know none of those day cares had enough capacity to accommodate all their employees. So many a times the mothers would give up their careers or for the more fortunate ones, extended families chipped in.
But what is happening during this COVID-19 pandemic? Yes parents are all working from home. But so are the kids. The schools whose session was not over have seamlessly switched over to online school and are continuing as effectively, if not more. So are the co-curricular classes. The teachers are being really innovative with teaching instruments, art, dance, etc through some web-based video conferencing tools. And the outcome is perfect. I think this generation of children are digital natives and for them, this is quite natural. So their adjustment time has been a minimum.
The one big advantage of this is that there is no need to commute and children suddenly have a lot of extra time in their schedule which can be utilized more productively. Especially in cities like Bangalore, where commute is nightmarish, that is a huge blessing.
And now think of the working mother who can peacefully work from home because her child is occupied with online school in the next room. COVID-19 pandemic, inspite of all its challenges has given us this positive experience. We now know that mothers can continue with their career if they are assured of good education for their children, in the safety of their homes. In most cases women quit because they cannot trust the surroundings when their children are stepping out of home. If the children can get similar or better education and co-curricular training, sitting at home, then many mothers would not think twice to continue with their careers.
And these online schools once institutionalized, should be far cheaper than the brick and mortar schools. A piano class online would cost the teacher far less to run than having to maintain a studio. Same goes for every other class. So potentially the cost of education can come down substantially once this transformation becomes a mainstream. Some might say that the option of homeschooling has always been there. Yes it was. But how many of us are equipped enough to give a complete education to a homeschooled kid? And our traditional homeschooling would definitely require one stay-at-home parent. It’s a very daunting proposition! But when a standard school with its regular teachers and regular curriculum offers online school, then I am sure many of us would be ready to sign up for that option.
With this experience behind us, going forward, there can be some demands on other players in the society, besides the corporate, to help working mothers continue with their careers. And it’s a win-win for all. The schools get a different line of business, children get homeschooling but being taught by a regular school and parents can continue with a dual career peacefully. So why not? Should we see online teaching becoming more mainstream going forward?
But is it an unmixed blessing? You bet not! Like everything else this also has its negatives. While at this point in time, it’s our only option; once things normalize we would weigh all the above positives against the fact that our children will miss out on all their social interactions that they get in a regular school. And we all know how important it is in shaping any individual. So it has its cons too, but definitely it will be worth having as an option for the parents to help balance work-life in a dual career scenario.
I am extremely hopeful that once all the horrors of the pandemic will be behind us, this would just remain as the take away from this entire phase and we will see a huge social and economic transformation in the years to come.
The author is an Independent Consultant and a Senior Business Leader, with 25+ years of experience across the globe, both in the Financial Services Industry and in the IT Services Industry.