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‘Back to office’ causes higher attrition among women employees of TCS

Tata Consultancy Services Ltd. is witnessing higher attrition among its women employees at a time when India’s largest private employer has doubled down on its work-from-office policy.

Amid a crippling pandemic that resulted in job losses across sectors, India’s $245 billion IT services industry emerged as a bright spot for women workers. Remote work helped them juggle responsibilities at home and at the workplace. As things normalise and offices reopen, they are finding it difficult to strike a balance

As on March 31, 2023, TCS’s attrition rate stood at 20.1% on a trailing 12-month basis.

“Historically, women’s attrition at TCS has been similar (to) or lower than men’s attrition,” Milind Lakkad, chief human resources officer at TCS, said in the annual report for FY23, without quantifying the attrition rate seen among women staff. “So, this is unusual.”

“There might be other reasons but intuitively, I would think working from home during the pandemic reset the domestic arrangements for some women, keeping them from returning to office even after everything normalised.”

“The higher attrition rate among women in FY23 is a setback to our efforts to promote gender diversity, but we are doubling down on it,” Lakkad said. “In our external hiring, women make up 38.1% of our net hires this year, versus 35.7% in our workforce.”

Work-From-Office is definitely more convenient for everybody, but there are drawbacks. Tenured employees, who are well-networked, can work effectively and collaborate virtually using the social capital built up over the years, according to Lakkad. “That isn’t the case with more junior employees.”

Lakkad claimed that workplace essentials like collaboration, mentorship and team-building “suffered a lot” in these two years. He said that more than half of TCS’ current workforce was hired after March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced everyone to work from home.

Over the past few months, India’s IT bellwether has doubled down on its WFO policy, so much so that employees have reportedly been served memos for not being on campus for at least three days a week.

“You are warned and directed to start reporting to work from your office location as per the assigned roster with immediate effect,” according to the memo, as reported by The Times of India.

However, TCS has clarified its WFO policy. “Our objective is to have all associates work from the office for at least three days a week on average in the month, and towards the same, we continue working with all our groups to have everyone participate.”

Women In The Workplace
According to TCS’ annual report, women make up more than a third of the IT firm’s workforce. There has been a 60% increase in the number of senior women personnel over the past four financial years.

But the gender pay gap widened as women moved higher in the ranks.

In fiscal 2023, a junior-level TCS employee earned nearly Rs 3.80 lakh, irrespective of their gender. A perceptible pay gap was visible in the middle management (Rs 2.61 lakh, in favour of men) but that narrowed in the senior management (Rs 1.82 lakh, in favour of men).

“Gaps in the median salary between genders at middle and senior levels is due to a higher proportion of women at the junior ends of each cohort,” TCS said in the annual report. “TCS’ focused diversity and inclusion programmes are expected to narrow this gap over time.”

As on March 31, there were 70,066 women in the middle and senior roles, making up more than 40% of the higher tiers of the employees.

“Of all the leadership positions fulfilled with internal candidates in FY23, women made up 23% of the selected candidates, even though they account for only 14% of the applicant pool,” Lakkad said. “This speaks well of the quality of women candidates in our leadership pool as well as the supportive attitudes of our business leaders in promoting diversity.” Bloomberg

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