Last month, two major appointments caught my eye. In the US, President Barack Obama nominated Janet Yellen as the chairman of the US Federal Reserve, a first in its 100-year history. Closer home, Arundhati Bhattacharya became the first woman in the 206-year-old history of State Bank of India to take over the reins of the country’s largest bank. While Yellen’s appointment is yet to fructify, Bhattacharya, the youngest of the managing directors of SBI, took over in early October.
Apart from the fact that it took a woman nearly 100 years or in SBI’s case more than 200 years to head a financial institution, what stood out was the journey made by these women on their way to the top. They stood on their feet, fought their battles and asked for no concessions. They wanted to be treated as equals and won fair and square. That has been the story of most Indian women who are now heading various financial institutions in the country. They joined the workforce in the late 70s and early 80s, worked their way through the ranks and have now reached the top. This led us to pause and ponder. What was driving this trend? What was it that helped women to scale the corporate ladder in this sector, while the situation is not so rosy in other sectors?
This issue’s cover story, Banking on Women, explores these questions and more. What emerged during our research for the story is that even though women comprise 17 per cent of the workforce in the banking sector, they are present only in 2.66 per cent of the executive workforce. This despite a huge presence of women at the entry levels, according to the Khandelwal Committee. While these figures point to public sector banks, the situation in private sector banks is only slightly better.
The current crop of leaders we spoke to is worried about the future talent pipeline – it is drying up and fast! Women are giving up promotions and other big job opportunities because of family pressures and not being able to manage the twin roles. The cultural setting in India is also partly to blame for this. This has raised questions on whether this trend can be sustained. The reasons behind the rise of women leaders in the BFSI sector are that some very talented women received mentorship at the right time and were able to grab opportunities to grow rather than a systematic effort from the organization to bring diversity to the top.
What can organizations do to get women at top leadership positions? Build the pipeline from the base, identify talent and sponsor their growth by providing opportunities, teach them how to manage different stakeholders, different functions and the dynamics of the board. A woman’s choices change during her life cycle and companies would do well to remember that.
This time for the Big Interview, we have Sapient CEO Alan Herrick who talks about why leaders should live the organizational culture themselves every day and how culture can be scaled. We also pay tribute to Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar on his retirement from ODIs as well.
Apart from our regular favorite columns, we have an interview of K. Ramkumar, Executive Director, ICICI Bank, who talks about his journey from a manager to the board of ICICI Bank. In our series on Are You In The List?, we find out the competencies that HR managers will need to develop in order to be ahead of the pack. Watch out more for this space soon, now that the 1,400 young HR leaders move closer to the 2013 Are you in the List? Winners.
As always we hope you enjoy reading this issue. Please continue to share your feedback, criticism and suggestions with us.