Gender discrimination at the Top-level in India

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Being a working woman in India has never been as easy as making a lemonade out of lemons. It has always been a tough mental exercise for them to be able to handle as they face gender discrimination at several stages at their workplace. 

According to a recent study and survey conducted, out of 250 company CEOs in FY20, only six of them are Women. The percentage of women CEOs/Md dropped from 3.6% in March 2019 to 2.4% in 2020. 

There’s a big gender gap in Indian companies at both Top-level and Lower levels despite the fact that women were rated as more effective leaders before and during the crisis. According to a recent Public Labour force survey, the total percentage of the women’s labor force in India is 18.6% combining both rural and urban areas; the total percentage of men’s labor force is 55.6%. Less than one-fourth of Indian women are at work. 

According to fortune India, India has one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world and a majority of women work in the informal sector. Even though there are more women graduates, the number of those joining the corporate sector and rising to the top remains abysmally low. 

The major issue about it is that even if a large number of women get employed at the early stages, the number decreases at the mid-level or top level. 

The one major reason for it is the increasing pressure on women to keep a balance between work-life and personal life. Most of the time women have to leave their jobs due to family planning and hence, do not reach the managerial level. Only 17% of the working women in India reach any managerial level, the rest of them leave their jobs due to several reasons. 

Sakshi Agrawal, Senior Developer at Google Inc. has come a long way in her work journey. Belonging to a small town in Bihar, she has faced several challenges in her way to reach the place she is right now. While working at Fidelity Investments, Sakshi faced several challenges in getting promotions even after hours of hard work and labour. 

She chose to quit the job and now she works with Google and is happily settled in her own house in Sarjapur, Bengaluru. “It is very necessary for a woman to take a stand a raise a voice against any discrimination she faces. We have a strong weapon within ourselves and that’s our voice; to rise against anyone,” said Sakshi. 

The pay gap is also a measure issue and because of such a gap. Women are paid less than what men are paid, according to different surveys; the highest-paid are usually men. In April-June 2018, the average earnings of men in salaried employment were ₹17,697.78 per month. In the same time period, women earned ₹13,890.27 per month, on average. 

As quoted in the article ‘Gender inequality in the work environment: a study of private research organizations in India’ by Namrata Gupta. Since liberalization in the 1990s, India has witnessed a growth in the number of educated middle-class women in professions. However, there are few women in leadership positions and decision-making bodies. 

According to an article by The Economic Times talked about how companies are pushing for more women in senior leadership roles. “The company, which has nearly 20,000 full-time employees, aims to have 33% gender diversity across all levels, including top leadership in the next couple of years. It currently has about 20% representation of women in senior leadership positions and 28% gender diversity in its decision making bodies.”

Women in the country account for only 14 percent of leadership roles and 30 percent of professional and technical workers, as per data from the World Economic Forum report.

“It is very important to fight for the rights we have been given, if i have invested my time and effort in something, I’d fight to get the return till my last breath,” shared Sakshi. 

In the last six months, S&P 500 companies led by a woman CEO have outperformed those led by their male counterparts by an average of 1.2%, according to data analyzed by fintech start-up Winvesta that looked at the performance of companies that have been led by a woman CEO and compared its performance with a male counterpart.

Remote working has further contributed to diminishing geographical barriers which earlier prevented women from joining the workforce. 

An Article Anuranjita Kumar, Founder & CEO, Women in Technology (WiT), states “India as a place for working women is far behind in the race of keeping them at top at any managerial level.  There has been an increase in the number of women directors  by 50%  in the last five years at FTSE (The Financial Times Stock Exchange) 100 firms.”

Women now hold more than a third of roles in the boardrooms of Britain’s top 350 companies; Nearly 33% of board positions at FTSE 100 is held by women

However,according to a recent study by executive research firm EMA partners, in FY2020 India saw that only six of the top 250 companies’ CEOs are women, out of which, three are founders or belong to the family of promoters. 

On 11 January 2021, women held 34.3% of board roles across the FTSE 350, according to data gathered by BoardEx, up from 30.6% in 2019

According to the global general gap report 2021, it is going to take about 100 years to achieve gender equality based on the current rate of progress. 

The discrimination does not just lie in corporate world but also in different industries. In the fashion industry where women are supposed to get the top jobs, which they do, but men still rule there. 

Even in Indian politics, there have been several incidences of gender discrimination. According to the Annual Gender Gap report 2021 by the World Economic Forum, political participation maintains the largest gap globally, worse than the 2019 edition of the report.

Garima Devi Sikaria, Deputy Chairman in-charge of Bettiah, a small town in Bihar, put her concern forward while talking about the discrimination she had faced to reach at the level she is right now. “I am called a chairman; even my designation is being overpowered by a man.”

To be sure, this understanding of a woman’s role in Indian society is not limited to any one group or political party.

Citing a recent example, during the recent Bengal elections the CM of the state was heckled by national leaders simply because of her gender. Several times, women politicians have been mocked for their attire and appearance. From the CM of Uttarakhand to Akhilesh Yadav of Samajwadi Party, most of them have given so many  problematic statements about women. Racist comments, body shaming, women in politics have faced it all to be thrown away from power. 

Such conservative/orthodox beliefs, as well as violence against women, are often held as the main reasons why very few women seek any employment and are afraid of men at their workplace. 

And this is one of the major reasons why India has one of the worst labour force participation rates (LFPR) by women, according to an article published by the Indian Express. 

Women were rated as more effective leaders before and during the crisis. According to data analysed by Alolika Dutta, an Indian writer, Between March and June of 2020, 454 men and 366 women were assessed on their leadership effectiveness using our Extraordinary Leader 360-degree assessment. It was found that women were rated significantly more positively than men. 

Comparing the overall leadership effectiveness ratings of men versus women, women were rated as more effective leaders. The gap between men and women in the pandemic is even larger than previously measured, possibly indicating that women tend to perform better in a crisis.

The percentage of working-age women who are economically active in the country is far lower than the global average.

Whitney Wolf, one of the founding members and the only female on the board of the dating app Tinder, had to leave the company because of discrimination and sexual harrasment against her. 

Society in most of the cases haven’t really been accepting of women entrepreneurs around them. Kirti, a resident of Mumbai, owns a store called Zykaa. She and her mother have started this business this year with the hope that one day they’d become great entrepreneurs. However, they said that since the time they have opened up their business, they have been facing several problems

“While we were being appreciated for being women entrepreneurs, we were also victims of constant negativity and bullying from people around us. Some people from our area used to puncture our vehicles or humiliate us infront of our customers and other family members,” said Kirti. 

There have been instances where they faced violence against them which led them to file complaints against people. It’s funny how they were shut and asked to close the case if they wanted to be safe. 

The gender discrimination has started to get a hold in big media houses as well. Women hold less than 5% of the newsroom leadership positions across newspapers in the country, according to a report. This 2019 report discusses women’s representation in the newsrooms of English and Hindi news organisations in India. It was published by UN Women in collaboration with digital media platform Newslaundry and Teamwork Arts, a Delhi-based production company working with artists and festivals worldwide.

Women appear in just 15.7% of the flagship debate panels on the top five english news channels: Republic TV, Times Now, India Today TV, CNN News18, DD India. 

Women in the country have always faced problems in giving their voice a medium or a platform. Only 20% of the 20,000 english newspaper articles examined were authored by women. 

This discrimination can be seen in the debate panels as well as 70% of the Hindi-news channel debates feature all male-panels. English news channels on the other hand account for 53%. 

And the biggest problem is that these issues are not talked about. Out of all the articles examined, only 3% of the Hindi  newspaper articles covered gender issues, according to a report by the United Nation. 

Further, only 5% of the front page articles in the Hindi newspaper are authored by women, this number stands at 27% for english newspapers. 

Women’s representation has not just stayed in the dark for long, it has improved over the years. It is still worse but better than before which gives a hope for the country to give equal opportunities across all genders. 

Gender diversity at the workplace has long yielded benefits as it gives a platform for different minds to meet and work in a direction to achieve organisational goals. 

Linda Scott, in ‘The Double X Economy’ states that Economic results are best when men and women work in a gender-balanced way, whether at work or at home. Studies show consistently that teams of males and females make better investments, produce better products, generate higher returns, and have fewer failures. At home, couples who share housework and paid work have closer relationships with children, more egalitarian values, less interpersonal tension, and more productivity. 

The problem can be solved by bringing in equal pay schemes for women, by providing equal human rights as it’s given to men. Giving timely promotions to women on their ability to work can also decrease the gender gap at higher levels of work. 

Equal opportunities and equal rights can increase the women’s labor force of India which ultimately would contribute to the growth of the company as women are considered as more effective leaders at the managerial level according to a survey by Zenger Folkman.

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