According to McKinsey, the female labour participation rate in India is 35 per cent – one of the lowest in the world. It is not surprising that women in India find it very challenging to rise to the top at the workplace, because of the gender discrimination they face. Women in this part of the world have to work twice as hard as men to succeed in their workplaces. I can recount numerous challenges I had to face while setting up Biocon, just because I was a woman. Women do get a raw deal most of the time.
However, it is also true that today the situation is changing, albeit very slowly. I have seen a positive shift towards gender equality in corporate India. I do believe that women are being provided greater opportunities to participate in strategic areas of management.
Also, women have started getting support from the government and various financial institutions, which have made lives easier for them. We can see a new generation of young women entrepreneurs experimenting with various streams like entertainment, food, fashion, etc.
While celebrating these successes, we must remember that climbing the corporate ladder continues to be an uphill struggle for many women in corporate India.
Even now, the acceptance of women in senior management teams is happening at glacial speed. Except for a handful of companies, boardrooms and senior management positions are still the preserve of men. A McKinsey study shows women’s representation on boards is as low as five per cent in India. Interestingly, a Dutch study in 2011 showed that companies that had female directors performed better financially, than those that did not.
Incidentally, some change has started to take place; the latest Companies Bill outlines the necessity to have at least one woman on their boards, based on the size of the company.
Across the world, educating and empowering women have time and again proven to be the catalyst for rapid socio-economic growth. It is time we realise that gender diversity introduces a balance of views and opinions that allow for more informed decisions and business success.
India’s aspiration of emerging as an economic superpower hinges on how successfully we can empower our women to play leadership roles in various fields spanning business, politics, medical, legal, social work, etc.
Interestingly, in a country obsessed with men’s cricket, a group of young women hockey players have recently done the nation proud by winning a bronze medal at the FIH Junior World Cup in Monchengladbach, Germany, for the first time ever. Kudos to them!