The merits of focusing on gender diversity have been substantiated by studies across the globe. A recent report by MIT suggests that gender diversity at workplace can increase a firm's productivity. There are multiple examples from corporate India to highlight how having a more diverse set of employee’s results in a firm having a diverse skill set which creates a structure that functions better. More and more corporate leaders in India are imbibing the philosophy of ‘Equal opportunity to all’ creating a system that is inclusive and one that guarantees a workplace which is progressive in nature.
Although corporate India has made progress in ensuring gender diversity on the top, there’s still lot of ground to cover. As much as a stricter compliance of the law is required, an effort towards creating a significant talent pool of women on the top is also important. From our industry experience, we’ve seen HR heads choose men over women just on grounds of non-availability of suitable women talent with specific skillsets. Therefore simply assuming that corporates are not making efforts to hire women is also not fair to some extent.
The New Companies Act of 2013 was enacted with the objective of bringing in more accountability and good corporate governance. The New Act requires every listed company and every public company with a minimum paid up share capital of Rs.100 crore or an annual turnover of at least Rs 300 crore to appoint a woman director. Corporate India, especially the SME segment needs to work towards adoption of gender diversity by putting together a working mechanism to implement diversity across sectors.
CEOs set the vision for an organization and their office needs to set expectations with the HR and respective business leaders. Focused and continuous efforts leveraging various channels of communication ensures that an organization has seriousness about gender parity at the workplace and also guarantees that the true spirit of the effort gets communicated across hierarchy. Organizations can empower women leaders by asking them to work closely with the HR heads to drive diversity initiatives. Such a move helps delegate responsibilities and making it more of a team effort thus, increasing the chances of success.
Large organizations can also explore options of reserving certain roles only for women, including roles which are business critical. From hiring perspective, we are expecting 15% - 20% increase in hiring of women in 2017-18 at C-suite roles when compared to 2016. A lot of the firms that have been non-compliant are making efforts towards hiring woman on top. Within the industry verticals, we expect the FMCG and CPG space to create more opportunities for women this year. The travel, retail, media and entertainment space is also likely to create more senior leadership roles for women.
With diversity being the new mantra and successful women entrepreneurs running businesses, India Inc. will see more women taking up larger leadership roles. Corporate India is certainly taking women empowerment seriously and we are making good progress. However, there is more to be achieved. Also, the focus needs to shift to organizations in non-metros too. Is gender diversity even a topic of discussion there?
What can a corporate leader do in 2017? The culture of encouraging women leaders has to be set in motion by the top management. Corporate leaders need to empower their HR heads to ensure that leadership roles for women are created. Some practices including creating a culture of appreciating the good work done by women leaders and giving them flexibility like working from home when required, child care benefits, flexi timings etc. go a long way in sustaining a pipeline of strong women leaders within an organization. The benefits will only ensure that more women leaders aspire for leadership roles.