When it comes to representation of women in the workforce at junior and middle-level positions, India, with only 24 per cent, ranks at the bottom amongst the top 6 Asian economies, according to the Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia 2011 Report. Losing a women employee in the first 7 to 12 years of her career is a huge productivity loss to any company. Also, according to the report, India is losing 48 per cent of these women during the transition from junior to senior management positions. This data presents a great need to plug this leak in the pipeline with the right maternity policies and culture. The current situation is also proving to be the nemesis of all the effort the recruitment leaders are now putting to increase the gender diversity ratio and build a leadership pipeline of women leaders as well.
What is the opportunity loss?
Taking a closer look at this problem, below are some of the biggest issues caused by this increasing opportunity loss:
Loss in productivity: Working women, in comparison to working men, are still the primary care-givers at home, which results in many more interruptions in their careers—both short-term leaves of absence and long-term maternity breaks. Without a holistic maternity policy, these leaves of absence are not just affecting the woman’s career, but also leading to a loss in productivity for companies as well.
Loss of engagement: For a woman employee considering motherhood, the right kind of policies and mentorship can be a game-changer in elevating her engagement and commitment. On the other hand, lack of women friendly policies in this regard can be a turn-off for expecting mothers and even their peers. A number of corporate organizations are unwilling to invest in women's talent and view maternity leave and benefits as a drain on their resources. Alternate options such as work-from-home which can come to the aid of new mothers are still not as common in India. Bosses prefer to see their employees in office every day and believe that logging in from home will decrease their productivity. Restrictive policies in this regard can be a turn off on employee engagement which can reflect in the rate of attrition of a company.
The challenge of diversity: Holding on to capable women employees through their life cycle is of critical importance. In a study conducted with Fortune 500 companies, it was found that return-on-equity was 35 per cent higher and total return to shareholders was 34 per cent higher for companies with a stronger representation of women on executive-leadership teams, compared to companies with the lowest representation. Companies have been able to achieve an ROI of 163 per cent on their diversity training investment as a result of improved retention and employee performance. Clearly, strong diversity management has a positive impact on corporate performance and shareholder value, which is directly linked to competitive advantage.
Loss of leadership pipeline: India ranks at the bottom among the top 6 Asian economies when it comes to representation of women in the workforce at junior and middle-level positions, according to the Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia 2011 Report. While China has the highest percentage of women represented in the total workforce (50%), followed by Malaysia (47%), Hong Kong (45%), Singapore (43%) and Japan (37%), India is at the lowest rung with 24%. Worse, at 48 percent, India has the most significant drop from junior to middle level positions. Losing a talented employee within the first 7 to 12 years of their career is a huge loss to the leadership pipeline of women leaders which is now a significant diversity issue for companies across the globe. This is also a setback to company’s succession plan in the long term.
Motherhood is one of the biggest milestones in the life of a woman employee and also a huge turning point in her career. Not having the right policies at this crucial time is leading to disengagement and attrition and a great opportunity loss of good talent. Progressive policies can project the right message that ‘we care’ and also ensure higher engagement levels of women employees in the future. To get a holistic view of the opportunity loss and what companies are doing to make a difference, check out the upcoming August issue of People Matters.
Disclaimer: This is a contributed post. The statements, opinions and data contained are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of People Matters and the editor(s).