Leadership gender gap in India

Leadership gender gap in India

It also recommends action steps for developing and advancing women in this crucial emerging market. The first report - Leadership Gender Gap in India Inc: Myths and Realities - focuses on building awareness, looking primarily at differences/similarities in workplace perceptions and experiences for women and men leaders working in multinational companies in India. Data used in the analyses come from the project on global leaders that Catalyst conducted in 2006-2008 with the Families and Work Institute, and from The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline, conducted across 2007 - 2010.

In India, with a gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of approximately 7 per cent, and a projected talent gap, or a shortage of skilled labour to sustain this growth, of more than 5 million by 2012, it is alarming that India Inc continues to underutilise its female talent pool. India’s long-term economic health depends significantly on investment in and utilisation of female talent. Bringing women into the workplace is half the answer.

Creating an inclusive workplace - where all talent can thrive - is the answer. However, scaling the corporate ladder in India Inc continues to be an arduous task for women. Although women’s workforce participation has grown significantly (and faster than men in recent years), women represent only 36 per cent of the labour force-less than half that of men (85 per cent).

It is not about differences in work values and aspirations, but barriers to career advancement faced by women in India. We often hear that the reason women don’t advance as far in business or are more apt to leave workplaces is because they have different work values and goals.

We are also often told that women don’t aspire to leadership roles. Our data suggests otherwise. We found that men and women leaders had similar work place values and goals. Our analysis also draws attention to the fact that 97.2 per cent women and 95.6 per cent men aspired to a job with higher responsibility.

However, 70.4 per cent women and 54.6 per cent men reported downsizing their aspirations during their career thus far. Evidently, women encountered barriers to career advancement, including lack of role models, more than their male counterparts. Although women and men have similar aspirations vis-a-vis advancement, there are differences in what and who women know in the workplace, and that impacts their development and advancement.

We also found that men leaders were relatively more proactive in pursuing a job opening in the company if it interested them (24.3 per cent women compared to 40.4 per cent men).

Another myth in the workplace is around flexibility; that it is about accommodating the needs of a few employees, mostly women. Catalyst expertise suggests that work-life effectiveness is a mutually beneficial partnership between businesses and their employees (including both women and men). We found that leaders in India and Europe were relatively more likely to put job before family compared to their counterparts in the United States-67.8 per cent in India, 62 per cent in the United States, and 66.9 per cent in Europe.

Culling from decades of Catalyst expertise and recommendations from women and men leaders in business in India, a few considerations and questions to ask as organisations approach and improve their gender leadership gap:

Create a smart organisation:

- What is the business case for a diverse workforce? Do senior leaders and people managers understand it? If so, how do they communicate and reinforce the business case for work-life effectiveness organisation wide?

- How is talent defined and characterised in written and verbal communication? Is it limited to typical male leaders and leadership traits?

- How is leadership talent identified and developed? Are practices in place that guard against gender inequities and stereotypes?

Create an agile organisation:

- What is the business case for work-life effectiveness? Do senior leaders and people managers understand it? If so, how do they communicate and reinforce the business case organisation-wide?

- Is flexibility considered to be a “woman’s” or “family” issue, or is it about inclusion for all employees?

- Do senior leaders, HR professionals, and people managers understand the different work-life needs of its employee population?

Ready People Managers for a diverse workforce:

- Can mangers identify, develop, and advance diverse talent, including women?

- How are managers held accountable for the development and advancement of women?

- Are managers equipped to coach women about the unwritten rules and provide actionable feedback?

Equip Women to Manage Their Own Career:

- Can women have an open discussion with their managers and leaders about their aspirations and career path?

- How do women connect with influential people and key opportunities in the organisation?

- Are women equipped to seek feedback from managers, peers, and colleagues? Do they demonstrate readiness to accept feedback?

(Catalyst, a leading nonprofit membership organization working globally to build inclusive workplaces and expand opportunities for women and business)

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