A case for the fairer talent in India Inc
In India the representation of women on boards and executive committees is 5% and 3% respectively
While the representation of women on boards and executive committees is low, a survey suggests that a key agenda for India Inc. in 2013 would be to invest in women.
According to a new study from Booz and Co., “Empowering the Third Billion: Women and the World of Work in 2012,” nearly one billion women are poised to enter the global economy in the coming decade. However, the question remains as to whether theirs will be a story of economic empowerment or missed potential. Consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, in its report titled, “Women Matter” states that companies in Asia's leading economies have "strikingly" few women in senior jobs, missing out on a vital pool of talent to fuel the region's growth. In a similar vein Centre for Talent Innovation’s, CTI, research on women professionals in emerging markets finds that women encounter bias in the workplace, severe enough that large numbers (55 percent in India, 48 percent in China and 40 percent in Brazil) disengage or consider dropping out altogether. While the Booz & Co study suggests concrete steps that governments and employers can take to tilt the scales toward success, CTI argues that the problem can be addressed by employers by recognizing that there are high-potential women and must create procedures and programs that will enable talented women to reach their maximum potential. Given the talent deficit across industries, the proposition to retain talented women in the workforce makes all the more sense.
Statistically India fares poorly when compared to China or even Indonesia when it comes to representation of women on executive committees and boards. As per the McKinsey report, in India the representation of women on boards and executive committees is 5% and 3% respectively (lower than that of China which has 8% and 9% representation). Taking a cue from these studies and the “double burden” pressure (career and household duties) that McKinsey cited as the dominant reason for women in India to leave jobs; companies are offering unusual perks and incentives and creating unique programmes to contain dropouts. Media reports state that companies are putting an extra effort into increasing the number of women in their workforce, including paying higher fees to third party recruiters for finding appropriate women candidates. Apparently it seems that India Inc. is keen to keen to move beyond policies and frameworks to actually doing things to increase the representation of women and train them for leadership roles.
A survey conducted by Avtar Career Creators and Flexi Careers India, across 130 companies in India that operate in multiple domains, states that some 79 percent of the companies polled believe that investing in women would bring them sustainable growth and increased productivity. According to the survey respondents, more than 75 percent of their diversity & inclusion (D&I) investments for 2013 would go into inducting, developing, training and retraining women. In terms of budgetary allocation, IT, BPO, KPO and FMCG companies have higher budgets for gender diversity compared to other industries. Besides, an increasing pressure to retain talent and greater consciousness about the need for diversity at workplaces has also added to the momentum. Further according to the Avatar study as much as 83 percent of respondents in the survey said they were keen on hiring second career women - those who took career breaks for marriage or childrearing. It is in this context that it would be interesting to know how companies are going the extra mile to retain talent by showering employees who are poised for motherhood with extra perks.
According to reports available in the media, there are companies that have adopted unique talent retention strategies. For instance, Accenture runs a unique programme called 'Hours That Help' where employees can donate their unused vacation time to their colleagues who are in need of additional paid leave to attend to critical medical or personal matters. Often, this option is used by new parents to attend to any critical or urgent childbirth related matters. Besides, Accenture also offers security escorts and dedicated medical cabs for expecting mothers. Google India, besides offering an insurance cover towards delivery related problems and the general insurance scheme that is extended to the family, also offers a baby bonding benefit to young mothers soon after the child is delivered. As a unique practice, in case of adoption, Google bears the entire adoption expenses against bills that include the legal charges and fee charged by the agency. SAP India, which has its, ‘Run the Mummier’ programme, believes that there is a clear evidence that maternity and childcare benefits translate into higher retention, helping firms also to develop strong women leadership benches. IBM has a programme in place to train in-home caregivers or nannies on the nitty-gritty of childcare while Yahoo runs volunteer-driven Women in Tech (WiT) group that supports women across the talent pipeline and enables them to successfully enter and remain in the IT workforce.
Given the practices / procedures, intent and investment in place, the logical question in a world obsessed with measurability would be - do such measures help curtail dropout? Though a sweeping statement would be too much of a generalization, but there are companies that state they have had positive results. SAP India’s experience with their programme over the years is a testimony to that fact.