Women on Top

“Either you find us a woman director for our board or I will be forced to perform a sex-change operation on one of us,” was the desperate plea of the HR head to the managing partner for India of EMA Partners International, a global executive search firm. Evidently, the MNC chairman was keen to hire a woman to showcase board diversity at a global investor meet. – -This is what I read in my news paper – Economic Times.

I felt so happy and privileged for a minute to be a woman and specifically – working woman who could avail the opportunities arising from this desperation in future.

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However, it only took me a minute to come back to reality – any such forced hiring – favoring a particular gender, religion, race or caste simply means – talent and competitiveness compromised. And higher is the position compromised , bigger is the risk taken and greater the chances of failure.  Hence not surprising many leading Indian women leaders seem to be rejecting the idea, rightly referring to such attempts as short- sighted since these are not based on merit. As a woman, I myself dont think I would be comfortable moving up the ladder knowing that I have been given the position as some statistics correction drive and I may not be the best person suited for the job at hand.

Lets read another comment in the same article that said – “Companies have the intent. But to a large extent, it is forced. Indian companies that are taking cues from multinationals find it fashionable to talk about equal opportunity and gender diversity. But the point is that in certain types of job roles it is difficult to get appropriate women talent”. This kind of made sense to me. A study in 2011 revealed that women constituted only 5.3% of the total number of board members at the top 100 most valuable companies on the Bombay Stock Exchange. But this skewed statistics should not be just  tried to be fixed at the top positions.Such cover up acts in a knee jerk reaction can be very damaging to the corporate fabric , internal team motivation and overall performance.

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Few things that could help India Inc improve its brand image as an equal opportunity organization with respectable gender diversity :

  • Increase the base and mid of pyramid-  Encourage more women to work and remain working
  • Provide relevant corporate support – Flexible working hours, Permissible breaks for child care, Attractive comeback options, Trainings aimed at grooming women to handle family and work both (time management / stress and anger management / Being Smart and Efficient )
  • Training Men / Women at different levels of Educational  and professional life for supporting all women around them for working
  • Eradicating gender bias from root level – female foeticide / female education, female participation in all  key social / economical aspects
  • Training families to extend support as much as possible ( even if part-time ) in the increasing form of nuclear families in the society

All of these backed up with a conscious intent of more women in board rooms and continuously working towards it in a bottom up approach may take a few years to show results in the “gender diversity” status. But the results will be more meaningful, stable and a true reflection of the society at large and India Inc. And obviously a broader base will constitute for healthy competition and promotion at merit. Also, once we get the ball rolling, it will set the trend for future generations to follow. And India Inc can be an equal opportunity employer and yet achieve gender diversity in boardrooms.

Share, if you got some good ideas too, to have more women on top 🙂

Pic 3

Ref for Pictures used :

1. Pic 1 – Outlookindia.com

2. Pic 2 – Topnews.in

3. Pic 3 – Sheknows.com

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One thought on “Women on Top

  1. I do not really know how to react to this. Fundamentally, I am against the philosophy of reservations per se. However, this is one situation where I am not so sure considring the social demography of our country.

    To my mind it is important for the organizations to have representations from diverse group in the management. I do agree that forcing the same by way of a diktat may be counterproductive.

    At the same time the solutions that have been suggested are very fundamental and require a social revolution in the country. India has been trying to overocme these scoial issues for quite sometime and even though I am quite optimistic about the future of the country, I do not know how long one has to wait to see these social evils completely eradicated.

    There is no doubt that the Corporates need to have the best horse for each course and the quality can never be compromised. But having said that, my experience shows that if there are two equals, ‘Men are considered more equal then Women’. This is the mindset that needs to change. Having a representation for women in the board-rooms may change this perception as has been seen in HSBC, ICICI and Pepsi to name few organizations (though not to say that women in these organizations benefited due to any policy or favouritism, they certainly reached where they eventually did due to their performance and abilities, but having representations at the top helped bring in a chnage in the mindset of people in these organisations).

    I do understand that no one shoe fits all. But at the same time if a change cannot be brought in from down below at a desired pace through processes, better to force it from the top temporarily and then let the processes work to make it a way of life. Once the house is in order, there is no need to force these policies.

    I would love to hear from you on the above.

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