In order to enable women employees overcome personal challenges without them having to compromise on career prospects, ICICI Bank on Monday announced the launch of two new initiatives at a select media briefing in Mumbai.
The first, called iWork@home, enables women employees across hierarchies to work from home for up to one year. The period can be extended in case of special needs and can be clubbed with maternity leave. The second initiative is for women managers with children up to the age of three who need to travel for work. Under this initiative, the bank will provide for the travel and stay of the child and a care taker/family member.
“Less than half the women join the organised workforce after completing formal education. Also, women in the 27-32 age group tend to leave their jobs owing to reasons like maternity, child care and long travel time,” says Chanda Kochhar, MD and CEO, ICICI Bank. Additionally, medical conditions, untimely shifts and long working hours are other reasons for women leaving their jobs, she said. This prompted the bank to start thinking of a way to bring office to their home, and thereby reduce the number of women getting unemployed.
According to a 2016 study by professional recruitment consultancy Michael Page India, 72% women think they will have better work-life balance, compared to only 53% of women in Asia Pacific. There also continues to be a gap in salary between men and women, as sabbaticals post marriage and child birth tend to take a toll on their career, placing them on the back foot in terms of pay parity.
Sebastien Hampartzoumian, Senior Managing Director, Michael Page India, says, “While searching for a new job…women prefer matching their life priorities with their career.” Only 68% women are confident about finding a job within the next three months. More over, 28% women are not satisfied with their current salary and 17% women are not satisfied with their job security.
ICICI Bank’s iWork@home initiative can be seen a step towards empowering such women, who may have to otherwise quit their jobs. Kochhar stated that the appraisals of women working from home will be done basis their performance alone, and there will be no differential treatment towards them.
Under the iWork@home programme, core functions such as checking documents for disbursement of loans, image-based verification of cheques for clearance, first level scrutiny of documents for opening accounts and processing of export-import documents for payments are some of the tasks which can be done from the comforts of home.
To ensure that only the authenticated employee has access to the sever at all times, a three-level security check has been developed. It includes continuous facial recognition technology, whereby the system logs out automatically if it catches an unrecognised face in the background. It also prohibits any external device being connected to the desktop or any information being downloaded to the local server.
“In our pilot (of the iWork@home programme), we found that the productivity is equal and sometimes higher as compared to working from office,” says Kochhar. This is a welcome move for women employees, who form 30 percent of ICICI Bank’s total workforce of 73000, says Kochhar.
A 2015 study by McKinsey titled ‘The Power of Parity: Advancing Women Equality in India’, points out that the gross domestic product (GDP) of India can be boosted by $700 billion by eliminating gender inequality in organisations. Through this initiative, ICICI Bank hopes to enable flexible working hours for women, eliminate travel, prevent break in careers and manage career and life stage responsibilities effectively.
ICICI Bank also announced benefits for its women customers under the ‘Advantage Woman Savings Account’. These include benefits like unlimited free ATM usage at all banks, 30 percent discount on first year locker rentals and multiple offers on premium brands like Lino Perros, Shoppers Stop, among others.