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Rated: E · Article · Women's · #2197930
I have shared my thoughts on the criticality of gender diversity in corporates in India.

Leadership Communication


Women Workforce in Corporate India

1.0 Introduction

Women workforce in India is one of the lowest at 23% as compared to global levels despite women constituting about 48.2% of the population. This peters out further when we look at the number of women in corporate workforce and further up the seniority chain. Whilst few corporates are working towards diversity and inclusion, there is a significant opportunity that still exists.

There is compelling evidence of a correlation between gender diversity in companies and their performance. McKinsey's recent research on the impact of diversity in business shows that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams are 21 percent more likely than other firms to report above-average profitability; the figure three years earlier was 15 percent. McKinsey has also found that companies with three or more women on their executive committees scored higher on organizational health, on average, than companies with no women at this level. While the said article does not prove causation, companies that commit to diversity in their teams have been observed to be more successful.

2.0 The Landscape

There has been a regulatory impetus across the globe to encourage more women representation especially at the company's board. In 2013, the new company's act in India included a clause to mandate a woman member on the board. While this has been enacted after multiple rounds of deliberations with the industry bodies and SEBI, various other countries have adopted this earlier. In 2003 Norway had mandated 40% women representation on the board of 500 large state and private owned businesses. In 2011, France adopted a similar approach. At the time when the law was enacted, in India about 5.3% of the BSE 100 companies' boards had women representation.

3.0 Gender Diversity in India

India has a rich cultural heritage when it comes to gender diversity in intellectual and political pursuits. From women scholars during the Vedic period to political rulers like Rani Laxmi Bai to the various women national leaders who contributed to the country's independence movement, India has demonstrated stronger gender participation in nation building.

As per India Census data, women participation in workforce shows a growth, albeit a slow one. From about 14% 1971, 25% in 2010 it has fallen to 23.3% in 2017-18. This is way below the levels seen in other large countries. Even in the case of other comparable developing nations among BRICS, the representation is above 40%.

Global Gender Gap report released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in 2017 ranks India at 139 out of 144 countries on the economic participation and opportunity. As per McKinsey's study, the impact on India's GDP will be about US $700 billion if it achieves gender equality.

4.0 Challenges in Driving Gender Diversity

Primary factors leading to the gap in gender equality can be attributed to lack of access to quality higher education, healthcare, underlying societal norms, economic conditions and political barriers. While the employment of women at entry level jobs is growing, there is a significant drop in female employees at the mid-level professionals. This is broadly due to the life stage. In urban India most families are nuclear, and this adds pressure on the women to take a break in career and take up family responsibilities. The late working hours and long commute also becomes a deterrent for females to join work.

There are evident perceptual differences leading to gender inequality for a similar kind of job. As per a 2018 research done by ISB professors, women with higher grades are less likely to be employed in a role like men with lower grades.

5.0 Key Strategies to Encourage Women Participation in Corporates

5.1 Government policy changes

  • Maternity benefit increased from 12 weeks to 26 weeks of mandatory paid leave to women to enable them to return to work.

  • Creche facilities to be made available in offices where more than 50 employees work, is further helping women employees to get back to work.

Some examples of key strategies adopted by corporates in boosting gender diversity:

5.2 Back to Work Initiative by Corporates

Many corporates over the years have introduced different programs/strategies to enable women to get back to work post maternity. To name a few are BIG (Back in the Game) by Philips, gCareer by Google, Career 2.0 by Godrej, Bring her back by IBM, SCIP by Tata, Restart by GE, Sapphire by Infosys etc., IBM Daksh & Accenture pay special incentive through Consultants/employee referral when they recruit a female employee.

5.3 Leading the way for women

IndiGo believes a diverse pool of talent has been one of the secrets behind their success. Women constitute 43% of their workforce. Nearly a third of their managers and above positions are held by women, and a fourth of leadership positions are held by women. In fact, mission-critical departments, such as in-flight services and airport operations, to name a few, are all led by women leaders.

5.4 Preventing sexual harassment

With the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act,2013 most companies have set up their Internal Committees. There is an increased focus on educating women on incident reporting mechanism.

5.5 Closing the pay gap

There have been trends in companies actively bridging the pay gap. At Adobe India, a third-party compensation analysis revealed a gap and the same intervened through a pay correction.

5.6 Building Inclusive Culture

Kellogg India's efforts are towards creating an ecosystem that supports women employees through their critical life stages, like marriage and motherhood. Women of Kellogg (WOK) is an active networking and gender- sensitization platform.

6.0 Interventions to Boost Women Participation

The intervention to increase women representation in corporates will involve a partnership among three critical stakeholders - Government, Corporates and Individuals.

  1. The Government to strengthen policies on:

  • improved public transportation,

  • skills training,

  • safe working environment and

  • set a national target for women leaders.

  1. Corporates who are embracing more female workforce need to have a stronger framework to create an inclusive environment through flexi working arrangements, skills & networking workshops, ensuring pay parity, mentoring and safe work facility. Diversity needs to be part of the Talent Management agenda at a strategic level.

  2. Individuals need to become aware and reduce their negative bias and support colleagues by participating in diversity interventions.

7.0 Conclusion

India has a significant opportunity in enhancing women participation in contributing the country's economy. A strategic and concerted effort will accentuate the economic growth from current levels and put the country at world stage. While peer nations are at a larger representation, a quick action will provide a shot in the arm for the country to surpass growth targets. With the ongoing interventions across the corporates it is important to monitor the growth of women representation to ensure a positive trend.


Exhibit 1


Exhibit 2



  1. https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/McKinsey/Featured%20Insights/Employment%20and%20Growth/The%20power%20of%20parity%20Advancing%20womens%20equality%20in%20India/MGI%20India%20parity_Full%20report_November%202015.ashx

  2. https://labour.gov.in/sites/default/files/ANNUAL_REPORT_2017-18-ENGLISH.pdf

  3. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SL.TLF.TOTL.FE.ZS?locations=IN

  4. Afsharipour, Afra, The One Woman Director Mandate: History and Trajectory (September 1, 2015). Corporate Governance in India: Change and Continuity (ed. Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs) (Oxford University Press, Forthcoming); UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 472. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2686991

  5. Pages 8-12, The Argumentative Indian By Amartya Sen, Published by Penguin books, Great Britain

  6. http://isbinsight.isb.edu/why-the-gender-gap-persists/

  7. Women in workplace Research

    1. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/gender-equality/women-in-the-workplace-2018?cid=soc-app;

    2. https://womenintheworkplace.com

  8. https://www.womensweb.in/2015/10/12-companies-with-return-to-work-programs-you-should-know-about/


July 2019

Jyoti M, Sankaran V, Krishna M, Nishant S, Shailesh K, Anil S, Cariappa BS, Mohit G, Gyanendra P

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