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The current state of the women workforce in the corporate world

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The number of women working in India is increasing slowly but surely. Most of them are in the agricultural sector or in the unorganized sector. The increase of women in the corporate sector, especially in the decision making and leadership levels, is still quite insignificant, writes Mohana Nair, President of IMC Ladies Wing.

More and more companies in India are committing to gender equality. The Government too has also now realized that women should be supported in their urge to work and become financially independent, as they form 50% of the population and their earnings could lead to a big leap in the GDP. Laws are therefore being passed under which women not only are treated equal but are given special privileges which enhance their chances of succeeding in a man’s world. Some of these laws like six months’ maternity leave, establishment of crèches and such like have created problems rather than solving them, with employers choosing not to employ women who are in the relevant age bracket rather than provide these benefits. Fortunately the majority of corporates are more open to change and have accepted these beneficial laws in the spirit they have been passed.  

For women in the senior bracket, the Government has passed a law making it mandatory for limited companies to appoint at least one independent woman director. This again has started a debate on merit versus reservation. The corporates have also chosen to appoint women who are already on some boards rather than take a risk by appointing an unknown woman, even if she may be meritorious in her own right.

Women are however also fighting their own battles without waiting for Government or large corporates to assist them. For so many years now, women have been ensuring that they are as educated as the men. They’re asking for promotions and negotiating salaries at the same rates as men. To keep up with the progressing Indian women Indian companies too have started treating gender diversity like a  business priority, from setting targets to holding leaders accountable for results whatever may be hteir gender.  

In the corporate world, many employees assume that women are well represented in leadership even when there are only a few to be seen at the senior levels. And because they’ve become comfortable with the status quo, they don’t feel any urgency for change. Indian corporates need to close gender gaps in hiring and promotions, especially early in the pipeline when women are most often overlooked. And it means taking bolder steps to create a respectful and inclusive culture so women—and all employees—feel safe and supported at work.

Now India has changed considerably, more and more women are entering the workforce and are fighting for their legitimate position in society as an equal. The feminist movement, the laws stemming from our Constitution which confer equal rights on women, the necessity felt for a dual income, higher educational levels, have all contributed to women demanding that they are treated as equals at work.  Women are steadily gaining access to quality education and to jobs in coveted fields such as finance and technology and these changes are expected to accelerate rapidly over the next decade and beyond, giving women a pivotal role in the growth of India and its economy. It is not easy, the struggle goes on.  The number of women in senior positions and on Boards of corporates is few and far between. And with more and more women entering the man’s world and competing competently with the men, there is resentment and bias displayed by the men. Grave issues like sexual and other forms of harassment also raise their ugly heads. Women are however learning to hold their own and demand what is rightfully due to them. And this movement will only grow in the years to come till a day, hopefully sooner than later, when the talents of men and women will be appreciated equally and there will be no gender disparity at all.

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