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Covid-19 Creating More Opportunities for Women CXOs, Finds Study


Breaking the glass ceiling has never been an easy job for women professionals in the technology sector. Lack of flexible working policy and indifference of senior management often dissuade them from securing a place in the boardroom. The COVID-19 era that is disrupting every industry and individual has changed that to some degree. That’s according to the highlights from the sixth edition of the Working Mother & Avtar Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI) and Most Inclusive Companies Index reports released by Avtar Group, a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) consultancy firm, indicate these trends.

The uptick in women leaders has been observed across sectors with women holding corporate executive positions increasing from 15% to 17% in one year. About 17% of all director reportees to CEOs are women, a 2% jump from last year.

The IT/ITeS sectors take the lead with women comprising 18% of leadership positions compared to 14% in 2020. In the FMCG sector, there has been a 4% increase from last year’s 15%, while in the manufacturing sector, leadership inclusion rose from 5% to 9% in a year’s time.

Read more: Rethinking Women in Tech in the Next Normal

In the BFSI and pharma sectors, the report highlights that there has been a slide in women leaders. While the BFSI sector saw a dip from 18% last year to 15% this year, the pharma sector recorded a decrease from 22% to 18%. “This is indeed a cause of concern, especially when you look at the BFSI sector, which boasts of having a large number of women leaders,” said Saundarya Rajesh, founder and president, Avtar. There has also been a 6% drop in women in board positions.

About 340 companies took part in the survey, which compiles 100 best companies, listing rather than ranking the organisations on various DEI parameters. Of the 100 best companies, 75% are MNCs, and 25% are Indian organisations.

Overall, the participation of women has risen to 34.5% in the 100 best companies, while in the top 10 companies, the number of women employees stood close to 40%.

To further encourage women’s participation and career growth, 88% companies (compared to 81% last year) are now offering executive coaching programme and maternity retention rate has risen to 96% (which stood at 91% in 2020) in top 100 organisations. There is also a 40% increase in recruiting second career women (women on career breaks), since the time the study began in 2016.

In addition to gender diversity, there has also been an increasing intent to strengthen other diversity strands as well. For instance, 85% of the companies have LGBTQ+ network for their employees, as compared to 66% in 2020. Since the pandemic, over 70% of the companies have increased their investment in DEI programmes and training, while also consciously crafting their internal and external documents and communications in an unbiased neutral language. For PwDs (persons with disabilities), 60% companies are providing customized leadership development programmes.

Read more: How Women Techies Can Thrive in a Post-COVID World

In 95% organisations (compared to 89% in 2020), managers are being held accountable in their performance review to not only to get diverse candidates while hiring but also for retention and career progress of the DEI hires.

“A positive outcome of the pandemic we are seeing is the need to make hiring panels more diverse. This becomes especially important when hiring for leadership roles, as you want leaders who can appeal to diverse sets of people,” Rajesh adds.

The top 10 best companies in the 2021 report include Accenture, Citi India, Deloitte India, Deutsche Bank Group, EY, Genpact India, IBM India, Infosys, Mastercard and ZS Associates India. In 2021, the most inclusive companies (which covers inclusion efforts for gender, culture, persons with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community) comprise Accenture, Citi India, Cushman & Wakefield India, Deloitte India, EY, IBM India, Mastercard, Pegasystems Worldwide India, Target Corporation India and Tech Mahindra.

As Subha V. Barry, President of Seramount(formerly Working Mother Media), said “The 2021 BCWI-MICI results highlight that the leaders at our 100 Best Companies are conscious about the progress made on the DEI front and are now navigating a path to balance workplace complexities in a post-pandemic world. Inclusive leadership, combined with a diverse workforce fosters a culture of innovation, better problem-solving, enhancing the sustainability and agility of organizations.”

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