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Persistent Underrepresentation of Women in Indian Corporate Leadership

Context:

A recent report titled “Women in Leadership in Corporate India” by a networking platform has highlighted the persistent underrepresentation of women in leadership positions across Indian corporates. The percentage of women in these roles has remained stagnant below 30% for a considerable period.

Relevance:

GS III: Indian Economy

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Report Findings on Women Representation in the Workforce
  2. Factors Contributing to Lower Representation of Women in Corporates
  3. Strategies to Improve Gender Diversity in Corporate Leadership
  4. Conclusion

Report Findings on Women Representation in the Workforce

Overview of Representation Trends
  • Consistently Low Representation: Women hold less than 30% of positions across the workforce and in senior leadership roles, a figure which has been declining since the pandemic.
  • Key Cause: The primary reason for this trend is the reduction in the hiring of women for leadership roles.
Industry-Specific Representation

Lowest Representation:

  • Construction, Oil, Gas, and Mining, and Utilities: 11%
  • Wholesale and Manufacturing: 12%
  • Accommodation and Food Services: 15%

Slightly Better Representation:

  • Wholesale and Manufacturing: 12%
  • Moderate Representation:
  • Technology, Information & Media, Financial Services: 19%

Highest Representation:

  • Education: 30%
  • Government Administration: 29%
Compliance with Legal Mandates
  • Legislation: The Companies Act, 2013 mandates the inclusion of women directors on company boards.
  • Non-Compliance: Reports indicate that compliance with this law is lax.
  • Penalties: Between April 2018 and December 2023, 507 companies were fined for non-compliance, with 90% of these being listed companies.

Factors Contributing to Lower Representation of Women in Corporates

Societal and Structural Barriers
  • Societal Biases and Stereotypes: Prevalent biases regarding women’s abilities and leadership styles result in unfair assessments and restricted career advancement opportunities.
  • Reduced Flexible Working Arrangements: The decline in hybrid or work-from-home options has stalled progress, as these arrangements often support women’s participation in the workforce.
  • Domestic and Caregiving Responsibilities: The heavy burden of these responsibilities on women hampers their ability to commit and be as available as their male counterparts.
Environmental and Institutional Challenges
  • Migration and Safety Concerns: These concerns restrict women’s access to employment, especially in urban areas where inadequate infrastructure and unsafe public spaces deter women from seeking and retaining jobs.
  • Lack of Mentorship and Sponsorship: Women have fewer influential mentors and sponsors to advocate for their career progression and help them navigate corporate environments.
  • Scarcity of Senior Role Models: The shortage of women in senior leadership roles means fewer role models for aspiring women, making it difficult for them to envision achieving such positions themselves.

Strategies to Improve Gender Diversity in Corporate Leadership

Work Environment and Policies
  • Flexible or Hybrid Work Policies: Essential for retaining women, particularly at junior and middle management levels, as these stages often require balancing career aspirations with family commitments.
Recruitment and Hiring Practices
  • ‘Skills-First’ Hiring Approach: Prioritize hiring based on relevant skills, qualifications, and experience rather than gendered assumptions. This method helps reduce biases and promotes meritocracy.
Government Initiatives
  • Promoting Board Diversity: Governments can encourage diversity in senior leadership by raising awareness about board diversity in listed companies.
    • Example: The Japanese Ministry of Economy, in collaboration with the Tokyo Stock Exchange, launched the “Nadeshiko Brands” program, which highlights companies that support women’s empowerment and leadership, making them attractive investment opportunities.
Professional Networking and Support
  • Creating Strong Networks: Establishing professional groups for women can foster connections and collaboration, empowering women to navigate the path to leadership.
  • Benefits: These networks allow women to share experiences, learn from each other’s successes and challenges, and build a robust support system.
  • Mentorship and Networking Opportunities: Providing women with mentorship and networking opportunities can aid their navigation up the corporate ladder.
  • Role of Female Leaders: Experienced female leaders can mentor aspiring women, offering insights and strategies for career advancement.
Equitable Distribution of Responsibilities
  • Promoting Equitable Caregiving: Policies that promote an equitable distribution of caregiving responsibilities between men and women can help balance professional and personal commitments.
  • Paid Paternity Leave: Implementing paid paternity leave, especially in the private sector, can contribute to a more balanced distribution of caregiving duties.

Conclusion

The ongoing underrepresentation of women in corporate leadership roles in India is a significant concern that necessitates comprehensive and targeted interventions. By adopting a multifaceted approach, including policy changes, organizational reforms, and cultural shifts, it is possible to enhance gender diversity and unlock the full potential of women in the corporate sector.

-Source: The Hindu


June 2024
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