When Elma Hoque Shorna found out she was pregnant, she immediately thought of letting her office know; not because of maternity leave issues as one would expect, but simply because she wanted to share the good news with her colleagues.
Her office, Dnet, is one of the reasons why she is a relaxed mother-to-be, she knows this is a place that will make her pregnancy journey smoother.
“My colleagues remind me to eat on time when I forget and they are as excited about the baby as I am,” said Elma, Assistant Manager, Programme at Dnet, the happiness evident in her voice.
Founded in 2001, Dnet is a social enterprise that designs innovative product and service solutions for women, children, youth and senior citizens in rural and urban settings to create social impact and for institutions to enhance capacity and productivity.
The organisation works on promoting innovative and sustainable solutions integrating social enterprise models, which impact marginalised lives in Bangladesh and beyond.
Recently, Dnet won the BASIS Luna Shamsuddoha Award for having the highest women employment by male-female ratio. The award honours and recognises female entrepreneurs and professionals in the workplace and their contribution to society.
At present, around 42% of Dnet’s staff are women. From fresh graduates to experienced specialists, women hold different positions across entry-level to mid-management at the organisation. Currently, more positions are opening up at the senior management level.
The Executive Director (ED) of Dnet, M Shahadat Hossain shared with The Business Standard how the organisation looks forward to reaching a 50:50 ratio in terms of female and male employees and having a higher number of women in senior management.
Strong internship programmes, timely promotions and more positions for women at the top combined with careful screening and recruitment and zero-tolerance against harassment ensure the working environment remains gender-balanced, women-friendly and healthy.
“When you have a lot of female employees working, it is only normal that some will get married, some will have children. We believe a pregnant employee adds to the ‘happiness factor’ in our office,” he shared with us.
He explained how everyone around an expectant mother shares her joy and gets involved in the pregnancy journey. Her concerns become their concerns and her happiness, theirs.
On Dnet’s recruitment policy, Shahadat Hossain said, “We do not just recruit female employees, we try to hire qualified women. From interns to software engineers to doctors, we have experts at every level working for us.”
He added there is absolutely no gender bias within the organisation and there is a strong internship programme to help young women prepare for jobs at Dnet and elsewhere.
With multiple projects running across Bangladesh, female employers are often required to go for field visits outside Dhaka. Dnet ensures their safety and security at any cost, it is one of their top priorities.
“Our workers are allowed to take babies and their nanny to field visits. They can even take their spouse if needed. We provide accommodation accordingly,” the ED informed us.
Manager, Digital Marketing and Communication, Growth and Impact, Israt Jahan is another expectant mother at Dnet who has been working here for little more than a year. Like Elma, she is also not stressed about maternity leave or where to keep the baby when she would be working.
There is a daycare centre in the building where both mothers and their children can rest. Parents are also allowed to bring in attendants or caregivers. Moreover, there is an in-house doctor for regular consultation as well as in an emergency.
“I know I will be able to balance the baby and my work because of the comfort and confidence my office will give me,” said Israt.
We had the opportunity to have more conversations with employers at Dnet, all of whom shared their contentment about being a part of the organisation.
Head of Health and Nutrition Programme Dr Nilufar Parveen has more than 21 years of work experience. She joined Dnet a few months ago but has already gelled well with her colleagues.
She said, “After joining here, my son asked me, Maa, are you happy with your new job? He wanted to confirm I was!” adding, “this familiar environment is the beauty of this organisation.”
Lamiyah Daraksha, Manager, Tech Solutions and Innovation, has been working at Dnet for three years. She also went on stage and received the Luna Shamsuddoha Award on behalf of everyone.
About her experience, she said, “It made me prouder that not only Dnet, others were also recognising our achievements and appreciating us,” adding, “during the award-giving ceremony, I also wanted to thank the male community as well for supporting us and easing our journey.”
The kind of work Dnet does involves different combinations of research, technology and innovation and it is challenging as well as rewarding.
As a social enterprise, it works with marginalised people, ensuring their rights and much more. Here, a woman’s perspective and involvement are vital, believes the ED.
He added, “Dnet has carefully built an inclusive environment and we take measures to ensure our female employers feel comfortable.” He said there is always a dialogue going on between the management and the workers for smooth communication.
“All of our staff members are phenomenal, both female and male,” he said, appreciating all the employees.
While putting an end to our discussion, he shared the story of one Dnet employee and her dedication to work. “She asked for only three days of holiday for her wedding because she wanted to submit a project proposal on time. She said she would not miss the deadline at any cost.”