No wonder then, that majority of senior women surveyed would like to drop-out of corporate India and start their own businesses
Corporate India shows no greater responsibility as it continues to index the lowest figures for women board directors worldwide,that is a low 5 per cent
While the media and the eco-system seem to be viewing this episode as a political fallout among others, no focus has been given to the human side of this story, and the reality that exists in the business world today. There is a need for corporates around the world and in India to show greater responsibility in building the eco-system that will help women to succeed in their leadership journey
We have all now watched with distress – as Strauss-Kahn, Chief of the distinguished International Monetary Fund – and custodian of the financial reform process and faith of the global stakeholders, stands accused of criminal offence against women.
While this validates most of what women continuously perceive about the “discomfort” of their roles in male-dominated heavy-weight institutions where women continue to be a minority in the decision-making positions, it is equally sad to find what “men in black suits”are doing while on duty in $3,000 suites on “business work”.
What is more dismaying however is to see how the world media and eco-system seems to be viewing this whole episode.
From CNN to BBC – the coverage is more concerned about the “political fallout” of Mr. Strauss-Khan's inappropriate act – and the impact it has on his chances for Presidency of France and the Euro stocks; how the G-8 and G-20 candidates will be viewed for the new leadership at IMF, the debt-crisis role of Strauss-Kahn; and how important the IMF Chief is to the future of the EU financial bail-out.
No mention is given to the “human side of the story”, which clearly validates the well-perceived view that corporate and business “honchos” worldwide continue to view women as “sex objects” – fully at their disposal while they attend to the important strategies of re-arranging the financial stocks and boardroom business. Even when women do reach the boardroom – they are seen more as an “aberration” rather than the “standard”– putting a huge pressure on the women to perform with grace, balance, rightousness, high impact, delivery, performance, public spiritedness, executive presence, authority, all rolled into one.
The episode further reminds us of the recent statement by Joe Ackerman, Chairman of Deutsche Bank, that women bring “beauty and color” to the boardroom. Corporate India shows no greater responsibility as it continues to index the lowest figures for women board directors worldwide, that is a low 5% of women board directors in India, as compared to countries like Canada (15 per cent), the US (14.5 per cent) and the UK (12.2 per cent), Hong Kong (8.9 per cent) and Australia (8.3 per cent).
Clearly, this is a “non-financial” risk that even the distinguished IMF stakeholders did not foresee – and another lesson for enterprise risk-management for companies for including greater diversity of stakeholders that are sensitive to the non-financial geopolitical and societal risks. In fact, it seems that corporate boards in India remain fully focused on the traditional auditing and legal compliance procedures which they term as “good corporate governance”, with little understanding of mitigating risks that will arise on account of the “reputation” of the company, volatility of governments where billions of dollars can be lost overnight (Egypt, Libya), and the malaise of misconduct and unethical behavior of senior leadership that is simply dismissed as “low priority” business risk.
No wonder then, that majority of senior women surveyed would like to drop-out of corporate India and start their own businesses. It is just not worth the “sweat and tears”, as there is no place for them to more “upwards”.
And this is not the “leaking leadership pipeline” of women that is it being recycled by corporate leaders where they are referring to the off-ramping of women, but it is a case of lack of equal opportunity in the workplace that is driving senior women executives to seek alternative avenues for satisfying their aspirations.
European nations reeling with a sagging economy and France in particular, are beginning to recognize the depth of their mistake in being indifferent to an economic dynamic where powerful men traditionally wielded control and women have silently accepted 20% less salaries then men. Corporate India is no less a victim of this skewed leadership, where not a single women appears in the list of “highest paid executives” in the country, and we continue to applause all-male business excellence award ceremonies.
The IMF seems to have taken immediate steps to put into place a new code of conduct governing personal relationships between managers and staff, which was approved on May 6.
There is a great opportunity for corporate India to also show its leadership, with affirmative action and corporate disclosures, on how the equal opportunity and code of conduct is being implemented.
We will all need to support each other in the interest of leaving the legacy of a better planet.
Poonam Barua is Founder Chairman, Forum for Women in Leadership, WILL Forum India. www.willforumindia.com