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Neha Bagaria the Expert at restarting Women’s Careers – Inspiring Interview!

CEO of JobsForHer Speaks.

A social entrepreneur at heart, Neha Bagaria was struck with the difficulties a woman faced when trying to re-enter the workforce after a break. She took a 3.6 year break in her career when she had her children and faced first-hand, the problems encountered by women in a similar scenario. “I then became committed to the cause of enabling women to restart their careers, thus founding JobsForHer on International Women’s Day, 2015,” Neha tells JFW. By Akhila Ranganna

“I was determined to build a team of other career-break women like me who understood how difficult a second career journey was, and benefit from the fact that they were experienced, recharged and ready to join me immediately,” she says. She started off with a team of six women who had taken breaks for myriad reasons, but what they had in common was the fire in their spirits to prove themselves again.

JobsForHer is a two-sided marketplace: the customers include women on a break at one end and companies on the other. “We work on a freemium model,” explains Neha. “For companies, it’s free to post and paid to promote. We provide several branding, engagement and recruitment solutions to our clients who are looking at hiring experienced female talent. Our branding solutions include featured employer profiles, homepage logos, and custom microsites. Our engagement services include online webinars and expert chats to offline workshops and mentorship events. Our recruitment services include online recruitment drives, hot jobs, and re-skilling opportunities.”

Entrepreneurship was not new to Neha. During her last semester at college, she founded her first company Paragon to introduce the Advanced Placement Programme in India. After marriage, she moved to Bangalore and started working with Kemwell, a pharmaceutical services company, in the fields of HR, Finance and Marketing strategy.

However, returning to work after a break wasn’t easy and Neha had to deal with many challenges.  She was worried about whether she could devote her time to both her children and her new business. “I was fighting against the traditional stereotyping where women are made to believe they are the sole caretakers.” Another challenge was that her past work experience was in the fields of pharma and education, diametrically opposite of the fast-paced tech start-up world. However, she resolved to confront her fears and slowly things fell into place. “I started with strong advisors to fill in the gaps in tech and HR, to build a scalable start-up. This gave me the confidence and I felt I could achieve the scalability I had envisioned,” she says.

While Neha says she hasn’t faced any gender-based discrimination, she has challenged some of the existing stereotypes like being a female entrepreneur in the tech, challenging the gender biases that exist for women in the workplace, judging someone’s competency based on their gender, challenges of motherhood, and being judged for taking a career break.

While the majority of the companies that JFH contacted in the early days were very positive, there were still some who subscribed to the notion that hiring women returning to the workforce after a break was a form of CSR or the women weren’t looking for full-time employment or they were a source of cheap labour. However, Neha debunked all those notions right away.

When she started JFH, a lot of women told Neha that they were being advised to hide the gaps in their resumes because most companies would perceive the gap negatively. “Over the last 3 years, we have made huge progress in changing the mindsets of both the women and companies,” says Neha. “Increasingly more companies are making a strong commitment to strengthening female participation in the workforce.” Within three years, JFH has managed to get 4000+ companies on the portal offering a range of jobs and has three lakh, monthly visitors.

One of Neha’s biggest learnings has been that women tend to hold themselves back because of fear. She advises women to let go of this and keep in mind a few must-dos before they restart their careers, namely re-skilling and updating themselves, and looking at mentorship opportunities to boost their confidence. Neha idolizes Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and her advice to women entrepreneurs is simple: in order to succeed in the competitive business landscape, it is imperative that women become comfortable giving equal weight to their careers as they do to their other obligations, roles, and responsibilities. And for that, they need to build a thick skin and a strong support system!

 

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