Facebook Twitter Linkedin Youtube Instagram
Home > Professional > Housekeeping > Women in the cleaning industry:Making their (strong) presence felt

Women in the cleaning industry:Making their (strong) presence felt

Advantages & disadvantages

Most of the women recruited as janitors are breadwinners of their families and prior to being recruited, they have worked as maids, says Bharathi Kamath, Managing Director, Carewel Facilities India Pvt Ltd. Moving into a fairly organised sector from working as maids in several houses with no benefits, weekly off, leave, PF & ESI offered by service providers is welcomed by them. The business of housekeeping involves and revolves around sourcing the right kind of manpower for the job and the challenge lies in retaining the talent which has been recruited and nurtured. It is in this context that women play an important role as janitors. It has been found that women janitors do not change jobs as often as their male counterpart. Women janitors are more flexible and adaptable, have an eye for detail and deliver quality work.

Some of the women employed as janitors have proved to be extremely good at work, resulting in being promoted as supervisors/office attendants. Their dedication and commitment have resulted in some of the offices requesting women to be deployed as office attendants or for pantry service. This clearly indicates that women have their own strength which needs to be identified and used in the right place, adds Bharathi Kamath.

However, there are situations in which a woman is not preferred over men for reasons such as working on night shifts, continuing work into the next shift and handling strenuous jobs. Woman janitors have an inherent quality of being homemakers and have natural instincts about cleanliness, says Rupali. They learn quickly and are devoted to their jobs. If the family livelihood is dependent upon them, absenteeism is low. But, they cannot shift duties and are not strong enough to do loading and unloading or other heavy odd jobs. Women also face problems of eve-teasing by male colleagues.

“We, at Inox,” says Anita, “value our women cleaning staff as they bring more dedication and attention to detail – the job. Though they undergo the same training as the male staff, we do not make them do jobs that involve lifting of heavy machinery and climbing heights to clean the extremely high auditorium walls and ceilings.”

But at the international end, Jami of Turning Stone Resort says that “the female team members are not in a position where they would experience any extraordinary issues other than daily activity and the occasional clean up that requires reactive cleaning. All team members are encouraged to participate in informational activities our resort has to offer along with any training classes. The atmosphere that is promoted daily by our leaders is projected with a positive teaching and attitudes such as our core service standards and reinforced with our department’s mission statement that we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.”

Finally, whether a man or a woman, it is the quality performance that matters at the end of the day, says Sonal Chitroda. Adds Jami, “I personally believe that no one gender is more qualified to better run a business or manage a housekeeping/environmental service. It comes down to knowledge, experience and a faithful adherence to be committed to a job well done.” Anna Rodriguez adds, “In my experience if knowledgeable/educated, both man and woman are capable of performing as good a job as the other.”

All said and done, the Indian society in general has to accept that if a woman is going out to work, she has to work shoulder to shoulder with men in a similar job, says Rupali. “People and family back home have to pitch in some household work and share responsibility. That is the one way we can see the growth of women in this industry.”

Industry Opportunities

The housekeeping industry in India is poised at an interesting stage, says Anita. “Restricted to just hotels earlier, it is now an intrinsic part of any retail or business operation and is recognised for its role in bringing in more footfalls. Newer machinery and cleaning substances make our job a lot more efficient.”

Job opportunities are available for large number of semi illiterate and semi skilled. Yet, despite the demand, most housekeeping companies find it difficult to source candidates because this sector faces shortage of manpower. Meagre pay scale is one of the major deterrents and obstacles in sourcing staff, adds Bharathi Kamath.

“At Inox, we also lay a lot of emphasis on staff training and conduct training sessions for them on a weekly basis. We also motivate staff by rewarding them whenever they find and handover objects left behind by patrons,” says Anita. Even in the healthcare sector in the US, says Jami, be it man or woman, a staff member receives on-going in-service educational training and information/results of random quality inspections are shared with them on a monthly basis – all deficiencies are corrected when found. Random Patient/Customer surveys are also performed by an independent surveyor and the monthly results are shared with the staff.

The mindset about cleaning activity requires to be changed by motivation. This can be achieved to a large extent by training and highlighting the importance of housekeeping & future of this industry, identifying the skill of the employee and developing it further which will instil confidence and explaining career growth plan, suggests Bharathi Kamath.

The cleaning industry is becoming more professional and wishes to train its resources well, feels Archana. “Global standards are being met with quite a few clients, therefore use of latest tools and best practises has gained momentum. Even small properties have started outsourcing cleaning to professional facility management companies. The whole scenario of cleaning is becoming more professional, scientific and of course, cost conscious. Competition is therefore increasing manifold in all sectors of cleaning be it green cleaning products, hygiene products or the much awaited feminine hygiene products that have entered into the Indian market.”

Washroom, by way of usage for women, is a big challenge, says Archana. Housekeeping companies are adopting best practices in washroom hygiene. The awareness to providing feminine hygiene solutions has a long way to go.

Feminine hygiene products are a basic need of a working woman that most employers in India need to look into, says Bharati Shah, National Head-Hygiene Care Services, PCI Environmental Services Pvt Ltd. “Sanitary vending machines or sanitary bins at the place of work are not just convenient but cost effective too. They put an end to a woman’s burden of stuffing sanitary pads into her handbag or unhealthy disposal of used napkins respectively. Over and above, facilities like this add to the productivity of the employee.

“More and more housekeeping companies are opting to provide facilities for safe, hygienic and a discreet way of disposing soiled sanitary napkins.”

Today, the market acknowledges housekeeping service as a specialised entity and also treats a vendor as a partner in business. “There is no particular area that I feel has been more in demand for women. But there is an increased number of women looking for employment and an increased acceptance to work in all areas and all shifts,” asserts Prathibha.

Where the cleaning industry had been mainly contributing to janitorial services, in the last five years, its contribution towards cleanliness and hygiene through the use of man and machine has increased tremendously, says Sonal. This could be because of the increase in MNCs in India, increased exposure to international standards and the need to maintain such standards. To achieve these standards, the cleaning industry has a choice of machines, tools and chemicals to work with, while the end-users are able to comprehend the expenses involved therein and they are now prepared to spend too. Moreover, the cleaning segment which was scattered, has consolidated, drawing due respect to this industry.

Finally, even though there has been improvement, “We are still a long way away from getting a Cleaning Industry Services recognised as a dignified profession. Women still face the challenge of acceptability as better managers or proving that they are at par with men,” concludes Rupali.

Share this article

Leave a Reply

Enter Captcha Here :

Related Articles
“Cleanliness Reassures Customers”
Clean Is Not An Adjective-Musings of a Hospitality Educator
Hosting Housekeepers at a Housekeeping Summit
Continuing pre-eminence of good housekeeping

Newsletter Image

Get all latest news and articles straight to your inbox