Gender Diversity At Workplace: Need Of The Hour?

Historical Context in India

“With the advent of internal war, parochialism, exogamy, there came a profound shift in male-female relations. The male monopolization of warfare was instituted and extended to hunting (in order to preclude the use of weapons by women) and to the initiation rites of the young (male) warriors. The inequality of power between men and women was institutionalized in a way from which we have never recovered.” –  Why There Are So Few Women Warriors (1983)

If Indian society can be traced since its inception, we can see that it has been thoroughly patriarchal. Male dominance has been evident is many aspects of life. Before birth there was “sex-selective abortion”, and then birth of a daughter was seen as a curse in “son-fixation”, her sense of awareness was deprived with no apparent education, limited socializing permit, child marriage and it was cruel to the extent of bride burning and widow burning.

Surprisingly, in India, unlike other countries, the fight for “equality-for-genders” was initiated by male leaders. As we step into the twenty-first century, we can take pride in the advancement of women in the battle for equality. ‘Empowerment of women’ has taught our society that women are the flag-bearer of the world, giving birth and shaping the future of the world. Those “taken-for-granted” innate qualities are being valued realizing their essence. We have witnessed a host of women leaders in the hall of fame with the likes of Devi Chaudhurani, Aruna Asif Ali, Benazir Bhutto, Mother Teresa and Pratibha Patil.

Facts and figures

But still we have a long way to go. According to ET’s survey on women empowerment, a handful 16 women (4.8% of 335 positions) are on BOD of 30 Indian sensex companies. In BSE 100 and BSE 500 indices companies respectively 5.4% and 5.3% are women. Corporate brands are taking measures to boost these numbers to bring in gender-diversity in the workplace. According to a study for women in leadership(WILL), Indian companies like TCL, Zensar Technologies, Tata Steel, JSW Steel had 5-6% women in senior positions.

Now if we take this situation to its immediate superset, i.e., Asia Pacific context with 15% of Indian organization, a new Mercer survey on Women’s Leadership Development shows

Lean In(Global context)

In 2010, Sheryl Sandberg, the Chief-operating-officer at Facebook delivered a TED speech at company’s boardroom. It was an instant hit among big corporates and now has in excess of 2 million views on YouTube.

In her talk, she stated,

“Women are not making it to the top of any profession anywhere in the world. The numbers tell the story quite clearly. 190 heads of state — nine are women.

Of all the people in parliament in the world, 13 percent are women. In the corporate sector, women at the top, C-level jobs, board seats — tops out at 15, 16 percent. The numbers have not moved since 2002 and are going in the wrong direction. And even in the non-profit world, a world we sometimes think of as being led by more women, women at the top: 20 percent.”

And she attributed the issue to following reasons:

  1. The Leadership Ambition Gap: What Would You Do if You Weren’t Afraid?
  2. Sit at the Table
  3. Success and Likeability
  4. It’s a Jungle Gym, Not a Ladder
  5. Are You My Mentor?
  6.  Seek and Speak Your Truth
  7. Don’t Leave before you Leave
  8. Make your Partner a real Partner
  9. The Myth of Doing it All
  10. Let’s Start Talking about it
  11. Working Together Toward Equality

In USA, it has been thirty years that we have been observing percentage of women coming out of the pipeline of college graduates is more than 50. However when we check this number in the next pipeline of corporate jobs, the numbers are less for women. Now, if we see the further next pipeline of leadership position in Government and corporate, the numbers are shocking. With growing awareness among women in India, we see a greater percentage of women going for basic as well as higher education. Going forward, we must take a deeper look so that the story of numbers for top level corporate women positions does not repeat itself in India down the growth trajectory.

Why corporate offices find it difficult to hire women at top executive positions at times?

According to a HBS study, the main reasons are:

  • Cost of employing women in management is greater than the cost of employing men
  • Rate of turnover of top-performing women is 10.5x times that of men
  • Women find it difficult to break the glass ceiling at top management
  • Why women are the solution

Besides the core reason of gender diversity, according to Zenith research, following are the core competencies of female managers where they outperform their male counterparts.

  • Networking with colleagues
  • Understanding the gravity of a crisis situation
  • Commitment to their organizations
  • Multitasking
  • Collaborative work style
  • Crisis management skills
  •  Interactive leadership
  • Compassion at workplace
  • Free from gender-biasedness

Following is the extract of a HBR article:

In the book “Winning the war for talent in the emerging market”,  Sylvia Ann Hewlett and Ripa Rashid analyze strategies for retaining talented women employees include:

(1) Fostering the ambition of the employees and creating opportunities

(2) Building a diversified workplace by creating an environment free from gender bias

(3) Flexible work arrangements to fulfill family responsibilities and

(4) Emminent safe cab services

Drawing on groundbreaking research, amplified with on-the-ground examples from companies as diverse as Google, Infosys, Goldman Sachs, and Siemens, this book is required reading for all companies seeking to strengthen their talent pipeline in these rich and expanding markets like India.


In India, only 2% of the CEOs in top companies are women, 16% of the Indian governor and senator and 24% of the state legislator positions are held by women. These are really rookie numbers. And on the top of it, most of the progress in terms of introducing new policies for fostering women managers are happening in MNCs. Indian companies are still far behind in this matter. According to a Catalyst study, women managers yield upto 83% higher ROE and upto 112% higher ROI. So, it is not just the need for diversity in the workforce  that should employ women. We need balanced female workforce in order to increase productivity.



Article by Subhadeep Das

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