A March 2021 report published on the World Economic Forum’s website reveals that India is one of the countries with the largest economic gender gap(32.6%) in the world. It revealed that only22.3% of women are participating in the labour market. There are many reasons for this, such as the pandemic pushing all workers back into their homes. That puts extra pressure on the women’s workforce, as the burden of childcare is usually on the woman in the family. Another study, thePwC Women in Work Index, called the pandemic-influenced economic slowdown a ‘she-cession’, to highlight those jobs in female-dominated sectors were more likely to be downsized than those roles typically held by men. This is a blow to diversity and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible.
On a more positive note, there is an increase in hiring which shows that India’s economy is getting back on track. But how can corporations ensure they hire more women while getting back into the swing of things?
Culturally speaking, India is famous for having a mindset that favors the male child. That can subconsciously influence even those who consider themselves progressive and self- aware. Many times, we aren’t aware of our own cognitive biases. The Indian Government is aware of this and is taking strong measures to make a cultural impact. They’re ensuring education, training, skilling, entrepreneurship development, and more, for girl children so that they emerge as skilled individuals ready to join the workforce. They’ve also added to the Code on Wages 2019 to reduce gender-based discrimination in wages, recruitment, conditions of employment, and more.
Similarly, corporates should take cues from the government. Rather than being defensive, companies should take the initiative to eradicate these biases. There are many ways to do this, such as using gender-blind technology during the hiring stage, appointing more women on the recruitment board, and actively ensuring that similar criteria are used for whoever applies for a position – regardless of gender.
In a slightly similar vein, corporations must enforce certain regulations put in place to safeguard the percentage of women in the workforce. For example, the 2013 Companies Act made it compulsory for all publicly listed firms to have at least one-woman director on their board. This move successfully increased the pool of distinct women serving as directors.
But this article in the Harvard Business Review found certain problems in the way this was being executed. They found that most boards that had women appointed by the quota were independent contractors, rather than from the internal talent pool. These individuals were considerably more educated and had more experience than their male counterparts – but weren’t being appointed to important board committees such as compensation or nomination committees. They were less likely to sit on more prominent committees than independent male directors. For example, an independent female director was nearly 40% less likely to sit on an auditing committee than an independent male director. Trends such as this greatly hamper the actual extent of governance reform within internal board processes. If one desires true change, it must extend beyond simply making cosmetic alterations. Qualified women leaders must be encouraged to have genuine decision-making power in their hands.
Finally, it’s important to ensure that companies are offering lucrative pay packages to their prospective women employees. In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, India was ranked 112th out of 153 countries. Research shows that women are paid 34% less than men for performing the same job and having the same qualifications. Even in the corporate realm, there is a discrepancy. The HBR worked with a multinational company and found that out of approximately 22,000 software engineers in the organization that was spread across the US and India – women made 33% less than men on average. When comparing women to men with similar job titles, skills, and company tenure, this pay gap shrank to 3%. However, if you look at it – there is a wage gap.
The way to tackle this is to ensure women are compensated fairly, they’re represented adequately, promoted regularly, retained effectively, and hired without any bias. It would help to constantly conduct surveys on job satisfaction and find out how the women in your company feel while working there. Find out the key issues within the company and weed out any bad players to create a better company culture overall.
Many factors deter the participation of women in the labour market. Overcoming these barriers will help achieve corporate targets and enhance gender equality in the labour market – and society as a whole. Indian corporates can help bridge the gender gap in the Indian work environment by taking these initiatives. That will only boost their productivity and help them get back into operations as normal, post-COVID-19.