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TCS faces female brain drain as office reopens

An unusual spike in female attrition challenges TCS's diversity goals as the company transitions back to the office

TCS faces female brain drain as office reopens
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

The Covid pandemic-induced work from home scenario seems to have reset domestic arrangements for some women staff at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), India’s biggest IT services company, deterring them from returning to the office even after normalization.

The higher attrition among women in FY23 is a setback to TCS’s gender diversity initiatives, Milind Lakkad, the chief human resources officer at TCS, said in an interview published in the company’s annual report, adding that the company is steadfast in its commitment to encouraging gender diversity. “We are doubling down on it,” Lakkad said.

Historically, women’s attrition at TCS has been similar or lower than men’s, making the current trend unusual, Lakkad said.

Lakkad said women constituted 23% of the selected candidates for leadership positions filled with internal candidates in FY23, even though they accounted for only 14% of the applicant pool. This, he said, reflected the quality of women candidates in their leadership pool as well as the company’s commitment to promoting diversity.

In addition, women made up 38.1% of TCS’s net hires this year in external hiring, compared to 35.7% in the workforce.

The office reboot

Lakkad also emphasized why return to office is essential at TCS, as opposed to continuing with remote work. “Tenured employees who are well networked within the organization can work effectively and even collaborate virtually using the social capital built up over the years. That isn’t the case with more junior employees. Workplace essentials like collaboration, mentorship, and team-building suffered a lot in these two years,” he said.

He also emphasized the impact on organizational culture, as over half of TCS’s workforce was hired after March 2020. 

Physical interactions with senior colleagues and leaders are crucial for new employees to assimilate the organizational culture, behaviors, and ways of thinking. Without these interactions, employee engagement and acculturation have been significantly impacted, he said.

“All these factors led us to gradually bring back people to our offices during the year,” Lakkad said.

A flexible work environment during and in the aftermath of Covid had helped women balance professional responsibilities and home commitments, while also helping companies attract and retain talent. But the shift to work-from-office is taking a toll on women’s participation in the workforce.

World Bank data show that female labor force participation in India, where they make up about half of the population, stands at 24%, behind China’s 61%, putting at risk the world’s most populous country’s economic growth.

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