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Indian Boardrooms Are the Worst for Women

women leaders

For a country that revels in patriarchy and misogyny is the core state for the males, the above headline shouldn’t come as a surprise. But, reading it in a global report published by Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI) as part of its annual exercise was far from pleasant.

The report, a part of CSRI’s Gender 3000 series, has been titled “The Changing Face of Companies” and unfortunately reveals that there isn’t much change to the face in this part of the world. The report merely states that India’s position with regard to female representation at senior management levels puts it in third place – from the bottom!

And there is something worse! When it comes to women holding CEO positions, India ranks third lowest in the Asia Pacific region with just a two per cent representation. Now! What could be worse? Well, when it comes to holding chief financial officer (CFO) roles, the number reduces by a whole percentage point to one per cent – making India second lowest on the list.

But wait! Things aren’t all that bad. India saw a slight improvement in female representation in senior management of 1.6 percentage points over the past three years, rising from 6.9% in 2016 to 8.5% in 2019, based on the matched dataset. However, the country holds the third-lowest spot in APAC, ahead of South Korea (4%) and Japan (3%).

While we see an improvement in the women representation in India, there is a persistent lag if compared to the global standards. While the global standards are 20.6%, India is standing at 8.5%. Why is that so? Why is it so below the average standard?

Are women less capable?

  1. Are they lesser than their male counterparts in the same boardroom? Well as per MIT Sloan Management Review, the answer to these questions would be a resounding NO as many executives are convinced that having more women as directors improved performance.
  2. Of late, there has also been a realisation that boardroom diversity contributes to the success of executive teams. However, the numbers of their contribution are still not very appealing. The biggest question that is in front of us is — how to improve it?
  3. Women must become active part of networking: As important as it would be for men, networking is equally important for women to be part of the same ecosystem. However, there are some constraints to it. For instance, most of the networking sessions happen post office hours which often act as a hurdle for women. In India, especially, as we all are aware, women hold a good amount of responsibilities at personal front which demand them to be back home by evenings and consequently making them miss these sessions. What women should do is- raise their voice for such sessions to be conducted keeping them in mind. It could be in the form of such sessions at early hours so that they could also be an active part of it. Women must speak up if something is making them miss on their share and only then the change will come.
  4. Women must ride using their inherent skills: You scale yourself following what’s ahead of you and this is very much true in shaping women leaders. Thanks to the establishments, most of the organisations have male leaders and women leaders are shaped following them. What this process does to women leaders is- forgetting their own inherent skills while imbibing the skills of male leaders. Women are blessed with skills such as soft, empathetic and effective communication skills, dedication, and multi-tasking to create their own space and sustain spells of success. Women must be proud of and embrace what they are blessed with and use them to carve their path instead of walking on the one carved by their counterparts.
  5. Women must become risk-takers: There cannot be any denial to the fact that we live in an unequal and patriarchal world and gender biases exist very vividly. In such a scenario, women are left with no choice but to be disruptive at every stage and stand for what their mind speaks. They have to be the risk taker but with all the homework done before. Professional skills are needed to be honed for both the genders but the special skill that women need to hone is to be bolder and risk taker because it is only then that they will be heard in a boardroom where they are a minority at the moment.

It is acknowledged globally that the diversity and inclusivity in the boardroom always leads to more creativity, innovation, better problem solving and better business skills. If organisations need to stand out today, they need to increase the number of women leaders in the boardrooms.

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