Safety, ideal jobs make city working woman's choice

The Times of India Chennai, May 14, 2013

Joeanna Rebello Fernandes TNN

Chennai: Marketers who pay close attention to the Census will henceforth seriously consider a key demographic in Chennai-itsworking women. According to the 2011 Census, Chennai beat Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai to own a higher proportion of working women, with 20% of its female population earning a salary. (The equivalent percentages for the above mentionedcitieswere11, 18 and 19 respectively.) Perhaps it's time those power-dressing commercialscamehome.

Recruitment experts acknowledgethe recentflowering of the city's workspace, citing a transformation of its professional landscape from a manufacturing base to a service-oriented hub. "Chennai is fast becoming a centre for IT and the knowledge economy," says Sangeeta Lala,senior vice-president (Sourcing) at TeamLease Services, a Bangalore-based HRconsultancy. "These aresectors that hire many women becausetheskill-sets required are gender-neutral. Moreover, many of the newcompanies are MNCs with strong diversity policies that look to maintain gender balance at the workplace," shesays.

The conservatism long associated with Tamil Nadu - which women perceived as an impediment to their professional progress - is slowing losing its grip. "Tamil Nadu is often mistaken as a conservative society in terms of social attitudes to women's attire and their conduct, but in the matter of education and career, women have lately been given more licence," observes Dr Kala Shreen, a sociologist in Chennai. "Another reason for the rise in women's is the kind of education they typically pursue here, with professional courses related to IT, computer science and analytics taking precedence over the humanities," shesays.

Chennai is also safer than Mumbai and Delhi. "It's not just the evidence, but also the senseof safety that putswomen here at ease about late nights and unthreatened travel," says Lala. A survey by Avtar Career Creators and Flexi Careers India, a social enterprise campaigning for women's workforce participation, revealed that security, apart from the provision of basic amenities, ranked among the most fundamental factors that influenced women job-seekers. Saundarya Rajesh, founder-president of the company, points out that it isn't only Chennai's score on safety, but its adaptability to global best practices and even its traditional social setup that encourage women employment.

"Though Chennai appears tobeoutwardly slow and resistant to change, I have always foundorganisationshere quick to pick up best practices," says Rajesh. "In addition, if women take a career break to raise a child or care for their elders, they're able to return to the workplace much sooner here. Even joint families - typically considered modern setbacks - have actually been found to help women sustain their careers."

From all accounts girl power is on the rise in Chennai.