Article: Gender Diversity & Inclusion - Overrated or Undervalued

Diversity

Gender Diversity & Inclusion - Overrated or Undervalued

Does diversity really make as much difference as it is talked about?
Gender Diversity & Inclusion - Overrated or Undervalued
 

India has the lowest national female labour force and the worst leaking pipeline for junior to middle level position women

 

Most global organizations have Chiefs of Diversity - it is fashionable to include Diversity as a topic of discussion

 

Gender diversity has not lost its sheen among corporates for its glamour as a subject to be deliberated upon. Numerous articles, research papers and books have been written regarding the importance of the same and its inclusion in any organization. The views may be subjective but it impels us to think what really lies beneath this much spoken about topic.

India is in a state of change where its social dynamics along with government policies will influence the rate and scope of growth. An effective gender diversity approach in an organization, facilitates recruitment, enhances its employer brand and has access to untapped talent pool.

The concept of gender diversity and inclusion may be new to our country, but a majority of organizations have started realising its importance and started changing its policies in compliance with the same; however the gender ratio continues to be dismal across industry and even more prominently at the leadership level.

Large IT companies in India have been hiring over 30,000 people in recent years, of which about 70% have been campus hires. IBM India has this year hired more women employees than men in its campus recruitment this year. SAP Labs India has hired 265 engineers from colleges this year; interestingly 42% are women as compared to 34% last year and 31%, the year before that. For Cisco India, the figure is 22% this year, slightly less than last year's 25%, but still above 16% 2010.

While this proves the company’s mettle in providing unmatched facilities to its women employees, it also reinforces its conviction in having a diverse work environment. Initiatives like these also prove that organizations have started acknowledging that diversity in their workforce has a positive influence on the productivity and its overall operation.

The Ministry of Corporate Affairs through The Companies Bill, 2011, proposes to make it mandatory for companies having five or more independent directors on a board to have at least one female independent director in certain companies, prescribed by the government. According to Deloitte report Women in the Boardroom: A Global Perspective, November 2011, at present of the 1,112 directorships of 100 companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange only 59 positions or 5.3% are held by women; these directorships are held by 48 different women. The amendment to the Bill is seen as a move intended to reduce the gender disparity on company boards.

In The Global Gender Gap Report 2011, by World Economic Forum, India came in at 113 among 135 countries in the latest gender gap rankings. Overall, India is the lowest-ranked of the so-called Bric (Brazil, Russia, India, China) economies featuring in the index.

According to Gender Diversity Benchmark, 2011, Community Business, (a non-profit organisation dedicated to advancing Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in Asia), India has the lowest national female labour force and the worst leaking pipeline for junior to middle level position women. 28.71% of those at the junior level of the workplace, 14.9% are at the middle level and a disappointing 9.32% are of those at the senior level.

The report also reveals that India is consistently the worst performer in terms of the representation of women in the total workforce, junior and middle level positions.
So what is holding back women from reaching to the leadership levels in significant numbers? Is it a deficit of aspiration or surrender to the social and familial pressure? Where do the answers lie? It is not a myth that it is harder for women to find easy access to the men corporate club. They get easily overlooked for convenience breaks, where most decisions are taken.

Every institution has a forum for diversity. Most global organizations have Chiefs of Diversity - it is fashionable to include Diversity as a topic of discussion. Why is it so when there is not much change that has been witnessed over the years. Time has come for some dissection.

The fact is that Gender diversity and inclusion is undervalued, and this is true as much in India as in developed countries. With 48% of its population being women, India boasts of 600 million women, at all levels of economic and literacy status. While most parents provide their children basic education, any progress beyond that depends on familial factors where women have to make choices.

According to Elixir Consulting, recruitment process outsourcing firm, for every resume shortlisted, a ratio of 1:4 (male: female) is imposed with open positions. In India, companies are ready to let go of 10 good talented male candidates, if they are getting one equally good female candidate. It was also revealed that some companies follow this strictly across functions while others, the trend is restricted to areas such as HR and communications.

In pursuit of balancing their diversity numbers are companies ignoring other talent that may be available to them? Has it become imperative for companies to recruit women employees just to balance out their gender ratio and reaffirm their brand name as an ‘equal opportunities’ employer?

Companies need to do away with a conventional approach which believes that men/women are suited for specific and defined roles. The best way to survive in a talent deficit environment is to adopt new thinking which revolved around an employee rather than as particular gender, man or woman.
 

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Topics: Diversity

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