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April 27, 2018
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Not yet another day in office for womenA survey by CII’s women’s wing finds women are still not much in the reckoning in corporate ecosystem

Going by the current level of participation of women in workplaces, it may take the world another 200 years, and India even longer, to achieve gender parity. Speaking at the launch of ‘The Future is HERe’, a report on gender diversity, Pallavi Jha, chairperson, Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII) Indian Women Network (IWN) Western Region, also said gender disparity is a serious global issue.

Ms. Jha, who is also managing director, Dale Carnegie India, added, “In order to solve this issue and maintain gender balance, we shouldn’t allow one gender to be more than 30% in a committee.”

The report, based on a survey of over 100 organisations across 17 States by CII IWN with Ernst & Young (EY), found that in India, women comprised 20% to 40% of an organisation’s workforce at entry level, but were whittled down to only 0-5% at senior management levels. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap index ranked India at 108, 21 notches lower than its ranking in 2016.

Gender parity earns more

The survey bases its approach on the well-validated observation that gender diversity plays an important role in team decision-making and in the development of new products or services. According to one estimate, better gender parity can contribute US $700 billion more to global GDP.

It found that 69% of Indian firms surveyed are unaware of the financial benefits of gender parity; in fact, only 33% of respondents said gender diversity helps improve their brand. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap report, 2016, globally, women are paid half of what men earn on an average.

Ryan Lowe, partner, People Advisory Services, EY, said, “Gender diversity is one area where India hasn’t made enough progress. Iceland, Norway and Finland are known to have made exceptional progress in eliminating the gender gap.”

Development plans

The implementation of the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, has meant initiatives like sponsorship and mentoring programmes for women employees are not getting response. The survey says only 30% of the respondents felt they were beneficial. Gautam Chainani, chief human resource officer, Jindal South West, said, “The Launch of Spring Board is our effort in bringing about changes in mindsets and policies and introducing sustainable initiatives for women. In the next two to three years, our goal is to significantly enhance our gender diversity ratio.”

Women leadership programmes and effective diversity and inclusion councils have helped organisations groom women for senior roles. Dr. Prince Augustin, EVP-Group Human Capital & Leadership Development, Mahindra & Mahindra, said, “Under Project Suryashakti, women were given an opportunity to venture into the male-dominated space of solar panel installation. We take small initiatives like putting the command centre in place to also ensure every app-based cab is tracked after 8.30 p.m.”

Iceland shows the way

For the ninth consecutive year, Iceland has been ranked the global leader by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in reducing gender inequality. In January 2018, Iceland became the first country to mandate equal pay, and firms with 25 or more employees must get their equal pay policies certified by the government. The country also seeks to eradicate a gender pay gap of 14% to 18% by 2022.

In India, the Monster Salary Index (MSI) found that women are paid around 25% less than men across all sectors. The biggest challenges workplace challenges for Indian women are poor transport facilities, and discouraging attitudes adopted by clients and colleagues; in fact, 40% of women surveyed felt men supported gender equality only in private, as they feared being judged by male peers.

A World Bank report said the number of women workers has fallen in India over the past 25 years. It found that secondary and higher secondary education don’t empower women to participate more in the job market: nearly 15.7% of urban women graduates are unemployed — the highest among demographic groups — and 23.4% of educated young women aged 15-29 years don’t have jobs. Interestingly, more married women join the workforce in rural areas.

As per a BBC report, women made up 11.2% of board members in Indian firms.

Silver lining

To promote women’s participation in the labour force, which is at 27% while the global figure is 40%, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Union Budget 2018 will include a reduction in new women employee’s contribution to the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) from 12% to 8%.

The Mckinsey Global Institute estimates that complete gender parity in India could add US $2.9 trillion to its annual GDP by 2025, or 60% more. Other initiatives like the three-year (2017-20) ‘action agenda draft’ by NITI Aayog stress on the importance of promoting equal participation by women in the economy.

India’s recent improvement in female representation started from a low base. Family-controlled companies, which make up a majority of Indian firms, have appointed women family members like mothers, wives and daughters as directors. One example is Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and chairman of the Reliance group, who appointed his wife, Nita, to the company board in 2014.