Why do we need gender diversity?
According to a study conducted by the Pittsburgh-based human resources consulting firm DDI, the companies that perform best financially have the greatest numbers of women in leadership roles.
In 2012, a Harvard study found that “at every level, more women were rated by their peers, their bosses, their direct reports, and their other associates as better overall leaders than their male counterparts — and the higher the level, the wider that gap grows.”
And if this is not sufficient reason to want more women in leadership roles in organisations, we must also recognise that women leaders can foster a better environment and introduce a strong team orientation into organisational culture. There have also been studies to show that women leaders are more loyal to the organisation. They bring in greater stability, and are less prone to attrition.
Studies around the world have shown that companies that have a greater number of women on their senior management are able to tap into a fuller spectrum of creativity and innovation.
Never mind nurturing and sensitivity. The fact is that women are now essential to the bottom line. That alone is why Indian organisations need to be proactive in employing more women and promoting - or holding on to - the ones they already have to positions of leadership.
Where does India stand on gender diversity?
The good news is that, since the 1980s (when just 10% of students in engineering colleges were women) that number has jumped to 40% today. Indian women are entering formerly ‘male-dominated’ professions in ever-increasing numbers – and are making visible marks.
Like with their global counterparts, the roles that Indian women play at work are changing too. From being typically stuck in administrative, data entry and clerical jobs, and having their professional lives interrupted or cut short by marriage and motherhood, more women are taking on managerial roles holding profit and loss responsibilities in post-liberalisation India.
So where are India’s women leaders?
Women already head at least nine banks, five FMCG companies and at least eight IT/ITeS companies in India. There are at least 7% of women as board members in listed companies in India - but at least 50% of them are family members of the owners, according to data from Avtar Career Creators. A meagre 1.5% of women leaders - from a population of 500 million women - are on company boards on merit, while, according to WILL Forum, almost 90% of working women in India are stuck in mid-level jobs.
With so few women making it from junior to middle levels, the pool of women able to move to senior level positions is that much smaller, and therefore the problem of the leaking pipeline is more severe.