Is it fair to ask “Married or Single?”

Read article Married or Single?  posted by Punit Soni. In recruitment process, candidate asked this question”Married or Single?”. I was surprised to see this article. May be I did not expect an article on women rights from Punit Soni (sorry?) and was happy that he was ready to scratch upon the tip of the iceberg. Made me think my IT Career experiences.

Been for more than decade in IT industry, I agree that huge effort is needed from new manager to follow fair approach towards women and differently able people.   Not only large companies can create a fair environment for women, small companies and startups can do also. What is needed is a positive mindset and that comes from positive interactions experienced by male employee early in career in his team or by his supervisor Did they have right experiences that influences them on being manager to  create positive environment for women?

Here my experiences and learning that has helped me to create my perspective towards women employees. sharing the same to say it is possible to create positive mindset.

In my second job, the only Tech Lead I worked for long duration and was friend was women. One day, she had to leave late and she comes by 2-wheeler from south Bangalore. My manager Asif had called for a taxi. On her leaving, he asked her to go home safe in taxi. She went in cab leaving her 2-wheeler. These are times when team worked using desktops and  cab means private card called in advance and we worked in Central Business district. Thanks Asif to help me get right perception to support female employee.

When we went to USA, we had our first daughter born and we were only two of us. Not knowing what to do in new city, I asked my female lead engineer(45 years old) and she was extremely helpful to make me see the responsibility to take care of my wife and my child.   At the same time, She raised question to my  company manger “what will Srini do if baby is born and project is over previous week”. My manger neither gave her proper answer and also came and polished asked “How does she know that your wife is pregnant? I responded that this is our problem and we will handle”.

This lead engineer c and manger shared  how my manger responded and  shared that we take steps to ensure that  your family will not be in zombie state and know what to do. Surprised that how Mid-West Americans supported, contrary to my past wrong belief ” Americans do not care”, both men and women. When baby was born, support received from everyone in Milwaukee, made me humbler and also make me to think of “Pay backwards”what I received. Our manager  attitudes gets developed when we are engineer and the positive it is towards women, it remains positive later. 

In my third job at startup, it was multiple experience. As company, women were treated well. Company bought 4 wheeler and hired driver for company owned 4 wheeler and employed the driver.Officially the driver becomes escort for female employee going late. After Prathibha case, female employees were asked to go home by 8:30 pm and we had a cab at 8:30 pm . Another trip at 7: 30 pm to drop employees to closest bus-stop. My friend Sudhakar showed that we can  balance diversity and being frugal and it is mindset.

On my end, I hired women employee for short term. she was quick learner, well skilled and went for higher studies later.  Thanks to V who  was my first female team member.  She shared how guys behaved, remarks shared without bad intention and why it hurts. My patient listening to her geared myself to hire women employees and understood their needs from manager.

Talent needs to be valued, irrespective of  men or women. My colleagues used to share with women candidates project challenges, late evening call support needed. We conveyed that we will support your well being, we have constraints and still we try our best. Planned their work  to allow them leave home by 8:30 pm or have setup to Work from Home.  We need to answer questions from male employees for this partial support to women.

For my team, there was female candidate for interview for automation engineer and I observed that she was pregnant (already father to 2 children). J performed extremely well in the interview and answered beyond my expectations and her current salary was too low with our offering.  Asking her to wait, I went to my HR(female) & recruitment mgr(child) and said “she is pregnant and she is best fit for role”. They said “Hire for talent”. HR influences in large way in creating culture of organization towards women employees. 

I went back and shared with her our interest and said ” I have seen my wife pregnant.  Are you pregnant?”. She answered yes and asked  how she can travel from Vijaya Nagar in this state. She shared that her company is in ITPL and our office was half the distance compared to her office. I asked next bold question” When is baby due date?”. This date fell 2 weeks before release, there was (>) 5 months from day she can join  I hired her.

This girl learnt learn C# and write code in C# using Visual Studio in first month. She did all this independently with  little supervision with my team lead. Her work impressed me to keep in touch for long time, even after both left company, she went abroad and searched for a job coming back to Bangalore. Today I will hire her again if she looks for a job. Jothi taught me to never look at things like pregnancy in job interview.

In my own startup. S , started as fresher, after an year she got married, she became pregnant too.. We switched off elevator beyond 1 hour in morning and evening. The pregnant employee was permitted to come to the 3rd floor office by elevator. If you are attentive to your actions, you can create exceptions every where. 

When she left of maternity leave, we paid salary across her maternity months.  Thanks to Guru who would keep S’s salary first aside, even in tricky times. When she came back, there was an unfortunate scenario for her to leave. S was given gift and asked to get things right and join back. There was clarity in thought that paying her maternity days was right thing to do as employer. Allowing her to  leave was right thing as that is what is expected from a  parent in her situations.  Being parents, we could relate to S as parents.  Your colleagues drive and influence your approach towards women. 

To end, We see more people beyond women with need on humanity to support them fairly and equally to enable them get a fair life, differently enabled people. As part of my product marketing role in 2nd startup, I proposed an innovative way to make NGOs to use our product. GN, my partner allowed creation of  campaign to provide our product offering free for differently enabled students. While we obtained a lot of learning about our learning software and it opened new opportunities, GN decided to walk the talk by hiring 3 differently enabled people in office. The whole office learnt how to work with them and how we make them feel in our interactions. Thanks GN for humble experience that gave me confidence to work with NGOs and organizations working  with differently able students.

On one side, when companies like SAP offer day care centers and special support for female employees, picture is not rosy across IT employees. These are experiences heard from employees, friends and neighbors.

Female employees, mothers in small companies are scheduled calls at 8:30 PM to 9:30 PM or from 9 PM to 10 PM. What would happen to their children sleeping habit?

Female employees in ITPL areas can be found on BMTC VOLVO buses even after 9 PM when roads get deserted. I see girls who stay in one of our apartments coming late. I am happy with women walking on road in night. If female employee is not ready to care for her safety in Bangalore famous for its Pratibha case, how will it strike to manager (male) to think of female employee needs? 

Both male and female employees in India attend calls between 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM. Assume that these Indians can attend from home, when do they spend time with their children? Mostly, you would see their American colleagues would do best to have all things to  protects his personal time. Do Indians not need personal time?.

I know houses where fathers lock their rooms because child would not allow them to take calls. when my girls were young, they come and sit on my lap across client call. I used to inform that she is listening and my daughters rarely shouted/screamed. May be a rare case. Today in home calls, when people ask to ON webcams, I do not or at times I hear that I look dull, I ignore and focus on agenda.  I and my daughter share study room. .

To note, at closing time of call at 9:30 PM, lead/manager asks team member to send minutes of meeting  or send email with some details or perform a small change and wants the same immediate, sharing that would help them be more productive. My question is ” why they fail to understand that employee took call in personal time? How fair it is of them to assign work and ask for  completion in personal time?