Driving along Bannerghatta road, I saw a signboard which said ‘Macho Saloon – For Men and Women’. It had a sketch of a man with a trendy hairstyle. In fact, if it had been my hometown, Allahabad, it would have been Chandrashekhar Azad’s picture, with neatly plastered hair, twirling his moustache.

I have often wondered why barbers in Allahabad do this! Did our great freedom fighter seek martyrdom only to become the poster boy of the Allahabad Barbers Association?

Anyways, that was a slight deviation from what I really wish to discuss today, which is: How is exactly is this Macho Saloon positioned towards women? Does it seriously want female customers to walk in? Or, it just added ‘and Women’ thoughtlessly?

Is your workplace a ‘Macho Saloon’ is the question I am asking? Does it invite women to work there while the symbols it displays, both physical and metaphorical, are only masculine?

While building a conducive culture is definitely one of the challenges towards building a diverse workplace, there are some thoughts on creating elasticity on the Org Structure to make it women-friendly.

Making flexible / part time working options available without working on the overall nature of the structure is short-sighted and falls flat on its face most of the times.

The system ends up providing these options in jerky, stilted manners, and ruing them simultaneously. So, we have leaders swinging from one extreme of kind empathy to frustration and anguish sending out mixed messages to the women availing them.

It just does not work! The issues are:

How can a fully-loaded role which needs the incumbent to be available for routine hours suddenly become a part-time role?

If moved to another role, who fills in the current role?

Who decides whether flexi / part time working can be worked out for the same role?

How many such flexi / part time roles should exist in the pool?

How should the incumbent and her environment be prepared to transition to a different form of working positively?

There is no one answer.

But what is definitely needed is a process, rather than a case-based and knee-jerk approach.

1. Build a pool of flexi / part time roles.

2. An internal process for applying to them, with timeliness, criteria, transition guidelines.

3. A process for back-filling full-time roles that are likely to get vacant from time to time.

4. A method for projecting likely numbers and competent team managing this.

5. A transparent advertising and communications board.

There need to be strict and fair measures. For instance, if a person abdicates a full time role and gets a part-time one after going through the process, she should not expect that the previous role will be available to her whenever she is ready to get back. In fact, she would need to go through the Internal Movement process whenever she is ready to get back, for the roles that are available at that point in time.

It’s time we stopped seeing Org Structures as stern boxes connected by lines. We need ‘working chairs’ and ‘hammocks’ connected by elastic. And a powerful Diversity Function managing it in a systemic rather than soft manner.

So, do one thing: look around you and try to spot metaphors of masculinity that might be causing depletion of women around the time they have children. They’d rather be home than in a Macho Saloon… 🙂