Despite modest efforts for higher women representation at the workplace, there’s a deficit of women in senior leadership positions in India and an even lesser percentage of women of colour at C-suite positions globally. Indian organizations are modifying their operations to include more women at the workplace by making provisions for hybrid work models, learning and development opportunities, recruitment from premium educational institutions and favourable maternity benefits. However, there’s still a discrepancy between the expectations of women professionals in India and the available opportunities to meet them.
Today, Indian women are more empowered than ever before to gain the required skillset to succeed in the occupation of their choice. With the advancement of technology, culture of remote work and thriving gig economy, Indian women are making strong endeavors to overcome geographical restraints and family commitments in lieu of pursuing fulfilling careers. The obstacles, therefore, nest in the ecosystem and prospects in which women as opposed to men are expected to build flourishing careers and successfully contribute to society. Even in the present day, Indian women are expected to work to earn money and support the household rather than pursue their passion.
Organizational Culture- The culture at Indian organizations is predominantly designed to catalyze the male fraction of workforce to prosper. While the expected output of both genders at organizations is equal, there’s a lack of enablers for women to attain the desired results. A few examples of these are the absence of flexible work hours, day care centres and empowerment to make decisions. A recent study by Accenture states that 38% of women claim that they don’t feel a sense of belonging at work. According to them, belonging symbolizes having influence over decisions, being respected by peers and seniors, feeling comfortable speaking up and having a senior leader who can help them to advance and grow.
Avenues for Growth– Historically, India has been a male dominated society when in fact women have also played a pivotal role in shaping India’s culture and economy. Employers risk losing female employees when they don’t help them realize their potential at work. A recent study by Harvard found that both the male and female study participants were less interested in working with women, as opposed to men, who attempted to negotiate a better salary. Indian women are less likely to ask for growth opportunities and initiate salary negotiations in anticipation of social backlash at the workplace. Additionally, the study depicted that at the workplace both men and women were more likely to lie to women than men as they perceive women to not question their lies as much as men.
Support of Family and Friends– Indian women are first regarded as someone’s daughter, sister, wife, mother and grandmother than her own being. This culture of excessive reliance has resulted in their careers taking a backseat and instead prioritizing the requirements of society. Sharing responsibilities at home while allowing each other the space to flourish both personally and professionally is the need of the hour. Technology enabled platforms can be developed to build community and inclusive environments for Indian women that boost trust and support.
Mentorship Opportunities– Studies show that while essential levers such as empowerment, communication and diversity pertain to both the male and female workforce, skill enhancement is prioritized as a key driver for women at the workplace. It is easier for Indian men to find mentorship at the workplace as they are perceived to be focused and driven. One of the reasons for this is simply that more men than women strongly communicate their requirements and career aspirations to seniors.
Work- Life Balance– Organizations need to consider the balance between the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors that affect Indian womens’ willingness to stay in their roles. Hybrid working is important for Indian women who still shoulder more domestic responsibilities than men. An effective work- life balance will curtail the exhaustion and burnout rates that is currently the highest among women. Today, the attrition rate among women is high as compared to the previous years. A recent study by McKinsey states that women leaders are significantly more likely to leave their jobs than men leaders because they want more flexibility or because they want to work for organizations that are more committed to employee well- being and DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion).
The way forward includes carving equitable experiences for women, investing in skilling and mentorship avenues, celebrating achievements and creating an inclusive organizational environment. Enable women to make work decisions that work for their unique situations. With global examples of women exiting senior leadership positions, it is imperative to empower them to tailor their wants from the much discussed work- life balance for them to thrive both personally and professionally.