Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Women today in top management

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By Payal Sondhi

Indra Nooyi’s legacy has helped in increasing the visibility of women’s representation in top positions but there is still a long way to go, as there are many questions that are still left unanswered. As much as we have learned from her and the contribution she has made, it still makes us think as to how many like her do we have in our country? According to a global survey by Grant Thornton – Women in business: New perspectives on risk and reward, India ranked third lowest in having women in leadership roles for the third consecutive year after Japan where only 7 per cent of senior-level executives are women. The survey also noted that only 7 per cent of the senior management (CEO/ Managing Director) roles were held by women in India. The most common roles held by women in India are Human Resources Director (25 per cent) and Corporate Controller (18 per cent).

This brings us to the point as to why is the state of women in top management positions strategically so low and what can be done about it? Let’s look at few measures that can be undertaken in order to ensure gender equality across platforms: –

Company Culture – A company culture sets the manner of how the organization functions and the employees act within their teams and the organization. Create a culture that promotes gender equality, this should be inclusive of gender unbiased policies, practices and behaviour. The senior management should work on this pro-actively by initiating mentoring programs to develop a tier of women leaders.

Training Programs – Organizations must identify high potential women employees and construct training programs to make them grow in the system. These employees can then progress from junior to mid-level to senior level within the organization. The training programs should be designed keeping the respective KRA’s (Key Result Areas) in mind for all the female employees who would be participating in these training programs, this to ensure that they adapt to the role/profile that has been decided for them. Conferences, exhibitions, study tours should also be a part of these programs.

Remuneration – It is mandatory to have an equal remuneration regulation across the board based on results achieved, experience level and not on gender. Incorporate an incentive-driven program in the organization, this will be for marketing and sales both in correlation with the targets achieved which would be based on monetary and non-monetary Initiatives that should be structured fairly. Make sure that your targets are the same for your male and female employees; also give your female employees opportunities to travel domestically and internationally in order for them to grow.

Harassment Policies – The biggest issue a professional woman or the organization faces today is sexual harassment. Implement a zero tolerance policy here which includes appointing a committee to address gender biased issues as well. This will cut the base chord of these issues not leading to a concern or a problem for a later date. Appoint an in-house counsellor who besides resolving internal conflicts can also act as a support system in these situations. Also, there is a need to regularly audit the processes & policies to ensure that they are not acting as a hindrance in an individual’s growth. This will help in getting rid of the unconscious bias in the organization.

Recruitment strategy –  Edit your recruitment strategy – HR while interviewing needs to ensure that there is a healthy ratio of female to male candidates’ is maintained, merit is the most important parameter to assess them. Set a protocol around the questions ‘not’ to be asked during the interview process to ensure parity in the process conducted for candidates of all genders.

Considering that about half of the population in the country today is women, India cannot afford to ignore them, especially for senior positions. Efforts need to made by the organizations to understand the potential that their female employees have and work proactively on supporting and helping them capitalize on it. On a positive note, we already have women leaders like Aarthi Subramanian, Aisha De Sequeira, Kalpana Morparia, Delna Avari, Neelam Dhawan and Poonam Kaul and many others bringing in that change; there is still a requirement of collaborative effort and additional initiatives to reach a balance when it comes to gender equality in the country.

Source: Entrepreneur

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