In a utopian world, none of us would have been bothered about the gender of executives in leadership roles. Unfortunately, in reality, the corporate world has to deal with the lack of women in leadership roles.
Pay parity is another problem that women in the workforce face. The Global Gender Gap Report 2020, released by The World Economic Forum, states that it will take another 257 years for men and women to have pay equality, i.e. by 2277. The previous edition reported that gender pay parity will only be achieved by 2222.
Startup India, a government initiative, says that women constitute only 13.76 percent of entrepreneurs in the country.
Research has shown that Fortune 500 companies that have the highest representation of women on their boards financially outperform those that don’t.
Organisations a high percentage of women leaders enjoy:
Increased satisfaction with one’s work
More dedication to the organisation
Everyone feels heard
More understanding and empathy
Also, having more of women wielding positions of power increases diversity at the top. A Harvard Business School report says firms which increased the number of female partners by 10 percent saw 9.7 percent more profitable returns.
Even men reported that they were more satisfied with their work, felt less burned out, and loved their work more when they worked in companies that had a higher percentage of women employees. A heartening fact is that in India, women fill over 30 percent of the leadership positions in the country while the global average is only 24 percent.
Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw of Biocon; Alice Vaidyan of General Insurance Corporation of India; Mallika Srinivasan, CEO of TAFE; Zarin Daruwala, CEO of Standard Chartered Bank India; and Shikha Sharma of Axis Bank, are among the many female stalwarts who have made a mark in the business world.
Each of these women have contributed in many ways to the success of the business they were associated with. Kiran’s Biocon, started in 1978, is today a billion-dollar company with presence across 120 countries. Alice raised the market share of GIC from 55 percent to 65 percent. Mallika made TAFE one of the world’s largest tractor manufacturers (in volume). Zarin was able to turn Standard Chartered profitable within two years of her arrival. Shikha Sharma quadrupled the stock prices of Axis Bank between June 2009 and August 2018 during her time as the CEO.
Challenges faced when hiring women across different levels:
A survey conducted by Young Women’s Trust came up with the following findings based on interviews of 800 HR decision-makers.
Around 12 percent of them were hesitant to hire women who may have children in the future (despite knowing fully well that it is illegal to base hiring decisions on this). Around 14 percent of male HRs and 10 percent of female HRs subscribed to this view.
Around 14 percent of the HR decision-makers said that the organisation considers whether a woman is pregnant or has children when making decisions like promotions. The only upside to this is that the numbers are certainly reducing. In 2017, 25 percent of them agreed to this and the number reduced to 22 percent in 2018. While there is a marked improvement in the attitude towards hiring of female professionals, a lot more needs to change.
Parental leave is another issue that many businesses cite to express their disinterest in hiring women. The onus of caregiving has changed drastically over the past few years, but businesses are still regressive in their thinking.
Another reason behind low female hiring, according to some businesses, is that creating a female-friendly workplace requires a lot of effort. Some of the other reasons cited by companies are that women prioritise family over work, men dedicate more work hours as compared to women, and that women are more liable to make decisions based on familial situations. It is unfair to women because some of these reasons apply to men too.
How can companies become more inclusive?
Offering workplace flexibility for women is a start. Due to COVID-19, more companies are switching to flexible work timings.
Empower women to be leaders. Show verbal support at all levels.
Create a transparent, respectful and positive workplace.
Break stereotypes of women employees by addressing such attitudes at regular intervals.
Pay them fairly.
Don’t discriminate by treating them as special cases.
Act against harassment of any kinds for all genders.
Change happens with time, but it requires consistent effort. Merely celebrating Women’s Day for optics isn’t the way to encourage more participation in the workspace, especially in leadership positions.
(Edited by Kanishk Singh)