International Women's Day is an occasion celebrating women and their achievements. The theme for 2019 International Women's Day 2019 is Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for a Change. But how much has the talk and discussion regarding women in the workplace really changed the on-ground?
At Firstpost, we spoke to a few organisations to find out what do they consider balanced workplaces, how much of their policies are crafted with women employees voicing their opinions, and what do they think needs to be done to retain and increase women employees in the organisation.
With the world becoming more complex, workplaces too are affected by this complexity. "The key then is to balance many competing demands and responsibility through culture," said Kanchana TK, Director General, Organisation of Pharmaceutical Producers of India (OPPI). It is through culture that organisations get things done she said.
An organisation should work towards creating and nurturing a culture of development, while also encouraging employees to be good parents, partners, and community members, said Aadesh Goyal, Chief Human Resources Officer at Tata Communications Ltd.
Gender disparity is a major issue. India has been ranked 108th in World Economic Forum (WEF) gender gap index, same as 2017 while recording improvement in wage equality for similar work and fully closing its tertiary education gender gap for the first time.
As per the WEF's Global Gender Gap Report 2018, while India has many challenges as it ranks 142nd out of 149 countries in the economic opportunity and participation subindex, it also has a few achievements. The gender gap was measured across four key pillars -- economic opportunity, political empowerment, educational attainment, and health and survival.
"It (India) needs to make improvements across the board, from women's participation to getting more women into senior and professional roles," WEF said.
Though several companies strive to achieve a healthy gender ratio at entry-level positions, the numbers start dwindling significantly as they go up the senior levels, said Pallavi Dhawan, Director Human Resources at Dun and Bradstreet.
"This impacts not only business outcomes but also the overall culture of the organisation, with female workforce particularly feeling disconnected from decision-making. At Dun and Bradstreet India, we realised this early on and have endeavoured to maintain a healthy 70:30 ratio of males to females across levels, right from the entry to the leadership level and we intend to accelerate this further," she said.
There are challenges which are sector-specific too. A unique challenge in the pharma industry is that women are perceived as missing from the sales force, said Kanchana TK.
"Our member companies are leading the way in bringing more women into this realm by focusing on their safety or assigning them a territory closer home. Sanofi, for instance, through EMPOWER bridges the huge gap of women in sales to overcome self-limiting beliefs and take charge of their careers," she said.
Equality at work goes beyond the usual parameters of equal pay and smashing the glass ceiling, said Kanchana. We are continually evolving as organisations; it reflects in the way we have seen women reach their fullest potential, she added.
At Tata Communications, an ongoing gender diversity and inclusion initiative is on to raise the current figure of 2,500 women in the workforce to at least 30 percent across the business, said Goyal.
The gender pay gap is still high in India, as women in the country earn 19 percent less than men, and wage inequalities in favour of men are present in all the relevant sectors, a survey said revealed on Thursday. According to the latest Monster Salary Index (MSI), the current gender pay gap in India stood at 19 percent where men earned Rs 46.19 more in comparison to women.
The median gross hourly salary for men in India in 2018 stood at Rs 242.49, while for women it stood at around Rs 196.3. According to the survey, the gender pay gap spans across key industries. IT/ITES services showed a sharp pay gap of 26 percent in favour of men, while in the manufacturing sector, men earn 24 percent more than women.
Women in the tech sector certainly feel that assurances of pay equity between men and women are among essential corporate actions to propel their growth in the industry with 42 percent of women sharing this sentiment, said Ritu Mehrotra, Country Manager, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives at Booking.com, a travel e-commerce firm that carried out a global study undertaken across 10 countries on Women in Tech.
When it comes to the other corporate actions that Indian women expect to see more of in the tech industry in the next five years, 51 percent say they expect to see hiring practices that attract a more diverse workforce. Over two in five (42 percent) expect to see greater female representation on company leadership boards, she said.
When talent is rewarded, without making gender a barrier, it works, said Nina Lekhi, MD and chief design curator, Baggit. "Talents should be nurtured. So, it doesn't really matter if they are men or women, policies should not discriminate on the basis of gender. At Baggit, there are a majority of women employees working in departments like the design, marketing etc.," she said.
Organizations today are making conscious efforts to engage women employees and address the issue of gender inclusivity, said Shirin Salis, Vice President (Human Resources), Ingersoll Rand India. "Our aim is to build and sustain a corporate culture that fosters values of mutual respect, cross-collaboration and inclusion, all of which is perceived as a shared responsibility that drives growth and innovation and enhances operational excellence while making a positive impact in the lives of our customers and the communities we serve."
One of the ways of doing it is get men at the workplace to be sensitive to women employees. The task in terms of reinforcing gender equality in male employees isn't easy and overcoming gender biases and stereotypes is always a challenge, said Jyotsna Uttamchandani, executive director, Syska group. "Acknowledging differences is the first step followed by offering diversity training and organising mentorship programs to bridge these gaps. Given that changing the mindset of someone else is a challenge, we must first begin by changing our own mindset. The problem here is that believing that women need empowerment is in itself victimizing women. Let's not diminish anyone's contribution. Fair visibility is always greater than equal visibility," she said.