“It’s so weird to see how people can change so suddenly, how they take interest in me now that I’m rising to the top, yet didn’t support me when I was starting out.” said Sakshi Malik, Indian wrestler
Sakshi Malik became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal in wrestling, at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Hailing from Rohtak where women are not even allowed to step out of their homes, she grappled with a lot of challenges to make it big at Rio. The question is….. Why did it take India so long to get a woman on the winner’s podium in Olympic wrestling?
|India scored 112 position in the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Index 2020, four positions down from the previous year. Furthermore, India ranked 149 out of 153 nations in economic contribution and opportunity for women1|
Indian women have to deal with a plethora of physical, social and gender barriers when competing in sports. But the discrimination is not limited to sports only, it spills into the corporate sphere as well. The gender gap among Indian professionals is worse than the global average in every sector.
This year, the theme for International Women’s Day is #EachforEqual which is aimed at celebrating women’s increasing contribution to the economy and calling out inequality. It stands for gender equality which is not only a fundamental human right, but is also a critical foundation for sustainable, prosperous, and equitable societies.
Indian women in corporate world
Every Women’s Day, multiple organizations run campaigns showcasing their commitment to gender parity. But when it comes to recruiting women to senior management positions such as board directors, a majority of companies fail to walk the talk.
In October 2014, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) made it mandatory for the listed companies to have at least one woman director on their boards. However, a majority of companies hired someone from within the family. In March 2018, SEBI announced that the boards should have at least one independent (having a non-executive role) woman director, to promote diversity. As a consequence, many power women were inducted as independent board directors. The challenge is that most of the companies looking to recruit independent board members want C-Suite women, though, a majority of women haven’t arrived at the C-Suite level.
The quality of board is directly proportional to the board diversity. This diversity originates from different gender, experiences and skills. A gender diverse board is empowered as it is likely to ensure better decision making and governance. It can uncover novel strategies and opportunities for the business, and infuse a longer-term outlook and culture.
|A global research by Deloitte established that the number of women on boards in India improved by 4.7 percent in the past two years from 7.7 percent to 12.4 percent whereas the global average stands roughly at 15 percent. Women represented 3.2 percent of the board chairs in India in 2016, up 0.5 percent from 20142|
What can be done to promote gender equality at work?
It is important to start at the ground level, i.e., at schools so that the seeds of gender inequality are never sown in the first place. Inclusion and diversity should be treated as an important business metric that is tracked very regularly:
- Sponsorship for Women –A woman feels appreciated at her workplace when she is sponsored and not just mentored. Sponsorship programs help women to reach positions of greater influence and responsibility. Multiple companies have paused formal sponsorship programs, alluding to pushback from senior officials who feel they are being expected to advocate for individuals they hardly know or don’t think are ready. It is critical that people are made aware of the sponsorship programs the moment they enter an organization. In addition, a sponsor and the candidate must have one-on-one sessions to understand each other better. Sponsorship can serve as an extremely efficient intervention to accelerate a woman’s career graph.
- Teaching employees what is not sexual harassment –The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, (“POSHAct”) was enacted in 2013 and ever since, there has been a lot of fretting around the fact that since women are offered protection under the Act, there is bound to be serious exploitation. Therefore, training and sensitization programs may help greatly in allaying some of those fears. We need systems in place where there is consistent, concerted, and sustained engagement between the managers and people reporting to them surrounding POSH and these engagement sessions must be reviewed periodically.
- Promoting a culture of sisterhood – Networking through sisterhood is radically different from the traditional networking. It is a platform that can be used for sharing emotional stories of transformation, or giving one-on-one life coaching. Members are given an opportunity to share about their struggles, as well as hone their pitch or interview technique. The basic objective is soul-soothing over self-promotion. The idea is to create space for more “feminine” opportunities of networking. Through sisterhood, women can grow personally and find the connections and the determination to improve business and society. Sisterhood necessitates patience, perseverance and resilience – however, it is worth the effort and can make a huge difference in enabling women achieve their true potential.
· Adopt more participative/democratic styles
· Are highly collaborative
· Boost others’ self-worth
· Are more competent in taking initiatives
· Practice self-development
· Practice integrity and honesty
· Are driven for results3
Biocon promotes gender inclusivity and women empowerment
Biocon is a biopharmaceutical organization envisioned and headed by a powerful woman leader, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw. Endorsing gender equality and empowering women is one of the fundamental objectives of the company. Currently, 15 percent workforce of Biocon is represented by women and for its commitment to diversity, Biocon has unveiled multiple initiatives. Biocon launched BioWin – ISURGE, a women’s leadership program across the organization. ISURGE, a leadership development program, implements several initiatives aimed at integrating multiple levels of leaders to build synergies.
|The participation of women in the workforce will play a key role in enabling India achieve its aspiration of creating $5 trillion economy by 2025. India can add up to $770 billion—in excess of 18%—to its GDP by 2025, by lending equal opportunities to women, as per a report by the McKinsey Global Institute4|
As women, let us all pledge to encourage our female colleagues to pursue their dreams and step up the corporate ladder to fulfill their leadership goals. Let us also strive to sensitize men around us to be the catalysts of change, to embolden women colleagues, peers and family.