Gender Diversity and Indian Companies: Review by ANAROCK
Indian companies are still run by men in the boardroom and the talk about gender equality hasn't changed much in the recent years. Majority of companies have much higher percentage of men in management roles. A review of Indian boardrooms by Sukhdeep Aurora, Chief People Officer – ANAROCK Property Consultants follows...
All talk and no action?
On the one hand, more and more employers in India are acknowledging the crucial role a diverse workforce plays in a thriving, growth-oriented business, its stakeholders, and the community it operates in. On the other hand, much of the steam pumped into diversity and inclusion initiatives is lost in events and other showcasing activities, with little reaching the final and most critical stage - execution.
Indian companies, particularly tech firms, are trying to work towards their diversity mandates through higher incentives for referring women candidates, hiring women on a break from full-time work, offering special benefits for better work-life balance (child care, etc.). However, true change can come about only when diversity is part of a business’s ethos and not a mandate.
Dramatic as it may sound, true inclusion is a matter of faith. A business must believe in the immense power of a diverse workforce that brings together different backgrounds, generations, and groups with their unique take on challenges and their solutions.
How far does the root of gender inequality in India Inc. run? Is it related to a weak talent pipeline affecting hiring, or a lack of employer sensitization affecting employee morale?
Inclusion does not stop at hiring. Inclusion must be a way of thinking and only then can it truly promote women in workplaces. Globally, and in India specifically, women are seen to leave the workforce before they reach mid-management level. Efforts made to include them in the workforce are as important as ensuring they continue in the workforce while navigating evolving roles on the personal front—as they go through milestones/events in life (such as marriage, parenthood and caregiving for the elderly).
Women’s unique career patterns
Studies suggest that the early 30s are a common age group for women to leave full-time jobs. While this could be a result of life events, the exodus can be stemmed by giving their careers proper direction prior to the break.
Supervisors/mentors have a crucial role to play here. A professional is more likely to come back to work when he/she knows what is expected of him/her and what growth trajectory he/she can expect in the future. In the absence of a clearly-defined career path, an employee coming back after a break would clutch at straws trying to fit roles, and employers will potentially have a low employee engagement issue on their hands.
We’re nowhere near the global gender diversity trends
Globally, the gender diversity discussion has moved forward to creating specific roles for women and discussing the roles of coloured women at the workplace, discerning a deeper understanding of the issue. In India, on the other hand, we are still content with celebrating the relatively few women in leadership roles and not doing enough to foster more of them.
India clearly does not have a problem with lack of talent. Some organizations’ Human Resources divisions have clear mandates to seek both genders for available openings. In fact, some go out of their way to hire women employees, preferring them over men.
A pertinent question then arises – are these equal opportunity employers or are they going overboard in their quest for redressing the gender imbalance? We have seen a similar dynamic playing out in the field of Indian law, which is now apparently overcompensating for decades of unabashedly male-centric legislatures by going in the diametric opposite direction on many fronts.
I would say - To each his own. Let firms set up their hiring policies as per their guidelines, but the right balance needs to be struck.
Even with all the right policies in place, where does India Inc. continue to get it wrong?
A larger issue at hand is the fact that corporate workplaces are still geared towards males than females. The second issue is a larger one – that of mindset. Plainly put, women are not entrusted enough with managerial roles. Many are stuck in administrative and lower level posts. To my mind, this is also an element of gender diversity that does not get much airwaves, largely because we are stuck at talking about the percentage of women at the workplace. However, this downward bias towards the roles of women is of equal importance.
To restrict women to sales or client interface work is also in itself sexist as much as it is regressive. That said, they are much more successful in such roles than men primarily on account of the trust factor they are able to bring to the table. On the back of their unique qualities, many women have risen to head big teams across verticals and across industries.
The discussion has to move beyond roles and fields where women are apt. They have ably and consistently demonstrated that they can contribute equally if not better than their male counterparts. Enough studies have proven that women bring ‘left-of-field thinking’ to work, which has more to do with new ideas and creative intelligence.