25JC01A_final.qxd 7/24/2012 5:02 PM Page 1 CHANDIGARH | WEDNESDAY | 25 JULY 2012 over men as they are better at inter-personal skills.” But there are social, cultural and perceptual hindrances that seem to be playing a big role in stopping more women from rising to the top. Even an optimistic Chakravarty can’t stop from raising the all-important question, “So when professionally they are as good as men then why not have more of them on board?” And this indeed is the question that each woman worker in the India Inc. carries in her mind when she her career growth is put in “gender” straightjacket. UN ‘FAIR’ BOARDROOMS No room at the top Has the Indian woman worker come of age as a stakeholder in the number game at the top in the corporate world? Countless surveys, woman achievers’ awards and top 10 lists would have us think so. It is time to objectively explore the dynamics of this gender tussle in the corporate world and find out the big picture of gender mapping. SWATI RAI Anne Marie Slaughter’s article in the July edition of a leading US magazine on whether educated professional women 'can have it all', raised a storm over the 21st century conundrum of a working woman. Slaughter, a Princeton professor, quit her high profile job as the Director of Policy planning at the US Department of State to spend more time with her children. This is not a stray incident but a representative one that is being faced by women all across the world while balancing work and home! Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook who recently became its board member, and a momto-be Marissa Mayer, who is now the CEO of Yahoo, may just be the inspirations that women want, but occupying the top seats in company boards remains a distant dream as far as the Asian economies go! Just a few women on top In leading Asian economies, including India, fewer women make it to the boardroom of companies, creating a shortage of talent that is hurting the growth of the region. According to the Mc. Kinsey & Company's July 2, report ‘Women Matter: An Asian Perspective’, it was found that around “50 per cent of Asian graduates are women, but only a fraction of them make it to the middle management, let alone the top! They often fail to progress very far, either getting stuck in the pipeline early in their careers or deciding to leave at middle management level. The report projects that by 2020 the likely high skill gap in China will be 23 mil- lion, while in India the medium skill gap could be to the order of 13 million.” Ruchika Bhaskar Sethi, Director, People Team, Ernst & Young Global Shared Services, India says, “There is a strong case of maintaining diversity at workplace. Both genders bring different things to the table. Be it in leadership skills, mentoring ways or executing decisions. For this reason, the representation of both genders is a must for raising the productivity levels of the company.” Though Sethi is upbeat about the fact that in her company 50 per cent of the work force comprises women, yet the fact remains that this ratio falls drastically as one takes a look at the scenario in the senior and top level. And this is a common factor. No surprises then that out of the Fortune 500 companies less than 5 per cent have a woman at the top. Talent not enough Ironically, the scarce presence of women in top positions has nothing to do with their performance and abilities or even a recognition of their talent. Very few challenge a woman’s ability to handle work pressures, take decisions and lead a company. A global research NGO, Catalyst’s, India Benchmark report (2011) found "There is a strong need to maintain diversity at workplace. Both genders bring different things to the table. Be it in leadership skills, mentoring ways or executing decisions.” RUCHIKA BHASKAR SETHI, DIRECTOR, PEOPLE TEAM, ERNST & YOUNG GLOBAL SHARED SERVICES, INDIA that companies with three or more women board directors at an average perform better than companies that have fewer women on the board and that too with a significant margin. It goes to the credit of countries like Norway and Spain have reservation for women in corporate boards. Ananta Singh Raghuvanshi, Director-Sales and Marketing DLF India Ltd. says, “Certain areas involving customer services, advertising, public relations, and facilities management etc. women score better because of the attitude and aptitude.” Dr. Devlina Chakravarty, Chief Operating Officer & Director Medical Services, Artemis Health Institute, avers, “Women can multitask unlike most men. They are equally hardworking, reliable and trustworthy. They definitely have an edge Positive policies may help Vidya Srinivasan, Senior Vice-President Infrastructure and Logistics, Genpact, bares the fine print of the issue, “It is true that most women resign at the midlevel management but this is mostly restricted to certain industries for instance the BPO sector resulting in a huge amount of dearth of talent. The idea should be to try and retain them as much as possible.” There are many options available these days to women such as flexi work, work from home or taking a sabbatical. Offices have day-care facilities, too. Talking of the women employees’ status and expectations from them Raghuvanshi says, “A safe work environment supported by respect and recognition is primarily what makes women stay in a workplace. On the work front there are no compromises or special benefits.” Sethi affirms, “Work-fromhome, maternity leave, and maintaining flexi hours of work are some other benefits UNFAIR PITCH Despite the obvious advantages, the attrition rate among women employees at middle management is rising consistently. Mc. Kinsey & Company’s report assigns the “double burden” of having a job and looking after the family is the as the chief reason for their high attrition rates. A woman in the corporate sector has to not only manage the work and family pressures but also has to be extra cautious about disclosing her career goals as being ambitious is still not a “quality” for a woman employee. While ambition and confidence are positive traits in a male worker and may even take him places, things change when it is a woman who is clear about what she wants from her career and life. Confidence and an independent streak may cause her to lose important family relationships or else she may have to sacrifice her career to conform to the standards of being a devoted mother, wife, daughter, daughter-in-law etc. These are some of the major factors that have hindered the “rise” of women to top level positions in India Inc. Catalyst 2012 report titled, ‘Expanding Work-Life Perspectives: Talent Management in India’ found that workforce, regardless of gender, ‘report a strong dual work-family emphasis and the desire for work-life effectiveness. Despite reporting similarly high levels of career interest and ambition as men, women in India report significantly more challenges managing work and personal life, suggesting the need for companies to consider how current work cultures and policies fit the experiences of all their talent.’ that women friendly companies are offering now”. Citing an example of her company she adds, “We keep in touch with our women employees who proceed for a sabbatical and draft ways of bringing them back according to their convenience and company norms.” It is true that at present in India there are more women bosses than there were perhaps a decade back. We see them as team leaders, leading projects and as vertical heads. The position of women may have changed over the years but the perception of a woman as a boss perhaps doesn't sit well with most at work. It is a given fact that having more women in senior positions in the corporate sector will have a competitive edge in the global market. In a scenario where there is a talent crunch; losing out on it is committing business hara-kiri, one that no company can afford. — The writer is an English language and life skills trainer
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