Article: Less than 7% women on boards: Is gender-neutral workplace a dream?


Less than 7% women on boards: Is gender-neutral workplace a dream?

A Women on Board study reiterates what has always been speculated: Less than seven per cent of total board members in India are women
Less than 7% women on boards: Is gender-neutral workplace a dream?

There is a common perception that men are better leaders and they can perform better in high-pressure jobs


Though women constitute almost 40 per cent of the total workforce in corporate India, on board-levels just seven per cent of women find representation. The Women on Board study, which revealed these figures, was conducted in more than 1400 India companies. Though this year there is a slight increase in numbers (from 6.69 per cent of total board members in 2012 to 6.81 per cent of the total board members in 2013), it is still far from encouraging. Interestingly, this isn't the only study that has highlighted the skewed male-female ratio at leadership positions or board-levels. A National Center for Women and Technology study had revealed that only 6 per cent of chief executives at the top 100 tech companies are women. Time and again, studies (and performances) have proved that women leaders (or junior employees) are as good a leader as a men employee, if not better. Then what accounts to this difference in numbers. Let us try to analyze the reality of a few ‘myths’ associated with women’s performance:

1. Men are better leaders:
Accept it or not, this notion is not still a thing of past. There is a common perception that men are better leaders and they can perform better in high-pressure jobs. Studies have proved that leadership talent is not gender specific at all. Men and women both can handle leadership positions efficiently. Most of the organizations lack gender-neutral atmosphere due to which women are more scrutinized and feel a lot more pressure than their male counterparts. A recent study revealed that the Fortune 500 companies who have three or more women on the Board outperform other companies with 53 per cent more return on equities. This clearly indicates that performance of women is more a matter of perception and it is quite different from the reality.

2. Women get fair chances:
Though the representation of women in the corporate workforce has increased over the years, the number of women in leadership positions hasn't seen much change. More than capabilities of women employees, it raises questions over the talent management strategies of organizations. A 2012 research by Catalyst tried to look into how future leaders are nurtured within companies. It analyzed 1,660 high potentials and found that among these men got more life-changing experiences (international assignments, mission-critical roles, highly visible projects) in their jobs than women. This clearly highlights the deep-rooted bias that women have to face at work.

3. Men have better professional skills:
Studies have indicated that the skills critical to success at a job profile are learned through on-the-job experiences rather than formal training. Hence, these skills are directly related to the opportunities and exposure that candidates get while on their job. The Catalyst research found that within 18 months of participating in the leadership development programs, more men got international assignments, received profit and loss responsibility and had their budget oversight increased. Moreover, more men (51 per cent) than women (37 per cent) got a promotion within a year. This points out that men get more chances to develop their professional skills and get more visibility in their roles than women.
Though companies are moving towards diversity, gender-neutral workplaces still seem to be a little farther.

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Topics: Diversity, Strategic HR

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