Gone are the days when women were hired only for administrative work or were thought that they were best suited for teaching profession. We find more and more women working in all sectors. In the recent times we see a sudden paradigm shift. Organisations are looking for more number of female employees now and also, ways to retain this talent pool. The question is, why now? The organisations have started becoming conscious of the attrition among female employees and are planning various methods to retain employees. This phenomena is heading towards what we can call “closing the gender gap”. Many organisations like HCL technologies, MTS India, Tech Mahindra, SAP India etc. have put various strategies in place to hire and retain women employees.

Sought after roles for women

Research indicates that diversity has a positive impact on innovation. One of the reasons for hiring of women employees is the growing demand in the market for a balanced healthy gender mix and many in-demand roles that need to be fulfilled. The most sought after function for women candidates includes HR/PM/IR/Training/T&D, Front Office/Administration, Accounting & Finance, BFSI and Marketing & Advertising. Indian employers still don’t prefer women employees for labor intensive/field jobs such as Sales/Business Development and Engineering. An article on the Economic Times “Corporate India goes full steam to improve gender diversity” states that “India Inc has aggressively pushed to close the gender gap and improve diversity this year, not because it is the thing to do, but because having women across management levels makes business sense.”

Why the rush towards hiring more women?

Previously India had no law mandating organisations to have women on the higher posts, but now corporate law and Sebi mandate the employers to have at least one woman on the board.This regulation could also be one of the reasons for the increase in hiring women and also for the decrease in Glass-ceiling effect. The deadline for this was on March 31st 2015. An article on IBN Live on April 1st 2015 stated that “over 250 companies including from Adani and Essar Groups, appointed women directors to meet the Sebi deadline of Tuesday midnight for having at least one female board member, even as some PSUs were seen lagging behind.

The companies have, however, mostly appointed wives or daughters of their promoters or top executives, while some have also replaced their independent directors with their female family members, mainly wives, daughters or sisters.” The initial deadline set by Sebi was on October 1,2014, then a six month extension was put in place. Hence, the deadline changing to March , 2015

The current trends on hiring women

A recent Grant Thornton International Business Report indicates that contrary to the international trends where the number of women in senior management positions have been stagnating, in India these numbers have been slowly climbing up. In fact, while the North American and European companies are showing trends of reduction in the incidence of women attaining senior positions, in India the percentage of women in senior positions has risen to 14 percent. These results have been revealed by an extensive study conducted by Grant Thornton that surveyed 7,200 businesses in 32 countries that account for 81 percent of the global GDP.

Indian business organizations and even multi-national companies who have a substantial presence in India have become increasingly conscious about bringing gender diversity into their senior management and decision making structures. Towards this end, some of the leading Indian companies have consciously directed their Human Resource departments to look for talented women to fill their senior management slots wherever appropriate. In fact, some organizations are giving a clear direction to their head hunting partners to fill middle and senior management positions with women candidates. MNCs such as the American Express and leading Indian companies such as Bharti Enterprises have mandated their recruiting agency partners to have sufficient women representation at the interview stage, so that the chances of promoting diversity at the top should improve.

Vodafone India has made conscious efforts in the past two years to move towards gender balance and have progressed from 14% women workforce to 20%. Similarly other organisations too are preparing to move towards a more gender balanced environment. There are many organisations that are even aiming at putting gender-neutral policies in place.

Few initiatives taken by organisations to hire/retain female employees

Here are a few initiatives taken by organisations-

Sapient Technologies is giving higher referral bonuses to employees who refer a potential woman candidate. Recently, MTS India made it mandatory to give first preference to suitable women candidates for all its openings.

Citigroup offers two core programs, Women Leading Citi and the Women’s Leadership Development Program, along with other work focused around advancing women across their businesses, fostering a global network, and engaging clients in the effort.

Women Leading Citi is 18-month sponsorship program, launched in 2009, is designed to foster the mobility of  high performing senior women. Managing Director- and Director-level women expressing an interest in advancing their careers through mobility are nominated by their business leadership. Participants gain opportunities to network and to broaden their leadership skills with a four-person support team-their manager, human resources partner, a talent professional and a senior advocate who serves as their sponsor. Participants receive in-depth assessments, personal coaching, and attend leadership workshops and webinars led by global industry experts. Fifty-nine women took part in the initial program, of whom 70% experienced career advancement over the 18 months. The program was re-launched in April 2012 with 54 women, of whom 36% had experienced career mobility through year-end 2012.

Women’s Leadership Development-Citi’s suite of leadership programs to support advancement to senior management includes a global leadership program for our high performing female Directors. The program, offered in conjunction with the UCLA Anderson School of Management, combines lectures, discussions, small-group work and personal assignments to help the talented female employees better manage their career development and mobility. Participants learn how to demonstrate executive readiness, become champions and role models for the organization, and grow their professional networks. The program, launched in April 2008, and as of April 2013 has been delivered 13 times to a total of 445 women.

Similarly, Goldman Sachs too have their program for hiring women employees. This is known as the returnship program.The Goldman Sachs Returnship program was specifically designed for those who left the workforce for two or more years and are ready to return. This paid, ten-week program offers opportunities in a variety of divisions and the chance to experience the vast network of resources at Goldman Sachs.In the same way that an internship offers a guided period of exploration, a “returnship” provides individuals with an opportunity to sharpen their skills in a work environment that may have changed significantly since their last experience as an employee. It also gives participants the ability to explore a new area of expertise and learn new skills.

Many major organisations have various programs to retain these women employees also to attract them to the organisation. Realizing the needs of working mothers, companies like Microsoft and HCL Technologies are about to roll out child day-care centres across India. Also, targeting issues around work-life balance, companies like HCL Technologies, Maruti and Ford India will be introducing counseling sessions only for women employees. Intel India has initiated a women protégé sponsorship program through which it plans to double the number of senior technical women by the end of 2016. Another initiative called ‘Home to Office’ has been launched, which facilitates women to resume their careers after a break. Currently, 90 per cent of its 5,000 employees are technical, of which 20 per cent are women.

Infosys has Infosys Women’s Inclusivity Network (IWIN) which defines women’s work environment. They provide seminars by gynecologists, health and nutrition specialists, pediatricians, and other specialists on an annual basis. Then there is pregnacare; This is a unique program offered for expecting mothers. A special yoga and fitness class is available in the Infosys campus. Besides, the physiotherapist provides ergonomics related counseling. They also have on site Doctors who can assist with ready prescriptions for mothers as well as over the counter prescriptions for their children.

Why women prefer to be in the lower strata of the organisation?

Most women prefer working in the middle and lower management due to lesser working hours. Being in a strategic role or leadership roles demands a minimum of 16-18 hours of work plus it is also a very challenging job. Women lose out on the home life while tending to their career demands. Work-life balance is an important area that women lose out on, if they take up the leadership roles. Adding to this, most members on the board are men. This makes it tough for women to penetrate the “old boys club” which in turn affects the decisions taken, as it tends to be skewed. Despite having the broad member or CEO as a part of the diversity counsel of the firm, they are hardly a part of the sessions or initiatives taken by the counsel. It is important for the company as a whole to work towards making their organisation women friendly, only then it will be able to progress towards effectively hiring and retaining women.

Fostering diversity helps an organization bring a fresh perspective to today’s problems or solutions and help shape new ways of working which enhance the ‘value zone’ in the interaction between people and customers. It is also found that women on the board gives scope for balanced decision making. Some of the organisations from which we can take inspiration are RPG Enterprises Ltd, Essar Group, Mahindra and Mahindra Ltd, for they have women as a part of the board of directors. With both the pros and cons of the current regulation in place to have at least one woman employee on board, one must ponder if the hiring of women in higher, strategic positions are only a means to get away from the penalty that would be put in place.

What are your thoughts on this? What is your company initiating to make the organisation women friendly?


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