Recently the global gender gap report by the World Economic Forum, ranked India very low at 114th position among 134 countries measured. The report thus calls for a reality check on the position of women in India in comparison to men in critical areas such as health, employment and education.
The WEF review carried out a broad and comprehensive survey to assess the state of gender-related corporate policies and practices in India.
“Girls and women make up half of the world’s population and without their engagement, empowerment and contribution, we cannot hope to achieve a rapid economic recovery nor effectively tackle global challenges such as climate change, food security and conflict,” said Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman, WEF, while releasing the report.
Expressing concern over the state of affairs in India, Gita Dang, founder director of HR consultancy Talent Advisory Services says: “Indian companies – other than in financial services – have been very slow to start and relatively inconsistent in their approach to this issue. Consequently, today we find an inverse pyramid as far as gender diversity is concerned – higher intake at campus level, some at mid- management level and negligible presence at the CXO/board level. While it is ‘fashionable’ to talk about it, unless there are sustained efforts and a clear long-term perspective it is difficult to see how this will change. The pity is that it is good for business as well as reflective of the market to ensure that there is a strong balance in the employee base and the MNCs have been more adept at managing this.
Of course, not all sectors are seen as laggards when it comes to empowering women. Says Poornima Shenoy, president, India Semiconductor Association: “It is definitely heartening to see girls competing at every level with the boys. In the tech sector, we see a high percentage of girls joining the work stream. There are fewer women joining the hardware space due to pre-conceived notions which we need to actively address. My level of concern comes at the senior executive positions. We have only 2-3 per cent of positions filled by women at decision maker levels. This is due to the higher dropout rate at the mid management positions. It is often difficult for women to support children’s education needs, family responsibilities and increasing work pressures. Work today extends beyond office hours making women have to burn the candle at both ends. Mentoring and coaching by organisations are important at this stage.”
The WEF survey showed that only 14 per cent of the companies questioned had 40 per cent or more women among their employees. These women employees are mainly present at the entry and middle levels of management, while very few women attain senior management level. Most companies do not track salary gaps, despite the clear wage gaps between women and men.
“Indian women have come a long way as they have started to make significant contribution in the corporate world, but few swallows don’t make a summer, India Inc has to go a long way in terms of gender equality at employment. Increased deployment of IT in the corporate sector, including areas such as automated process controls etc which traditionally were male dominated, has opened new vistas for women. Further, the growth of the IT and electronics industry itself – software, services has been a great blessing in terms of creating job opportunities for the fairer sex,” feels Vinnie Mehta, executive director of IT hardware body MAIT.