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Why Is Women’s Representation In India’s Corporate And Management Sector Abysmal?

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Indian society and industry are predominantly under the control of the patriarchal system, leading to occupational segregation in the field of management and the labour market. Though women managers’ representation in the Indian Industries is increasing phenomenally, these managers are continuously facing the problem of the glass ceiling.

According to Credit Suisse Research Institute (CSRI), India is ranked low in female representation at senior management levels, marginally better than Japan and South Korea. According to the report The CS Gender 3000 in 2019: The changing face of companies, India ranks 23 globally.

India’s female representation on board increased by 4.3 percentage points over the past 5 years to 15.2% in 2019. However, it is significantly below the global average of 20.6%. India also has the third-lowest rank in the Asia Pacific concerning female chief executive officer (CEO) representation (2%) and the second-lowest rank for female chief financial officer (CFO) representation (1%).

Indian women’s representation in the corporate and management sectors is affected by different personal, work and organisational factors. Personal factors include age, marital status, kids, work experience, number of dependents. The type of work, allocation of assignments, department, the average number of outdoor hours, etc., comes under social factors.

Organisational factors consist of age, size, tenure of organisation, training and development, type of industry etc. Among social factors, discrimination and gender role perceptions showed a significantly negative association with women at the management level in Indian industries, highlighted Prof Guha.

The webinar was organised by the Gender Impact of Studies Centre (GISC), IMPRI Impact Policy and Research Institute, Delhi, Post News, and GenDev Centre for Research and Innovation. The speaker was Prof Sampati Guha, professor at Tata Institute of Social Science.

Stating substantive findings of various literature reviews, she underlines that males lead high paid jobs and high levels of positions. Most importantly, no country (including top-ranked ones) has yet achieved gender parity in wages. Only 29 women successfully made their presence in the entire list of 1,999. Meg Whiteman is the only woman who had been included in the top 50 for CEO pay.

However, Women’s education level and work participation are increasing worldwide. Most of them continue to face occupational segregation in the workplace and are rarely successful in breaking the glass ceiling, which restricts women from top-level management and professional positions.

India is no exception. However, there is a lack of theoretical perspective, thereby neglecting the theoretical understanding of glass ceiling and glass walls and the lack of a comprehensive literature review approach, she added.

According to the Global Gender Gap report 2020, among 153 countries, India is the only country where the economic gender gap is larger than the political gender gap. The female estimated earned income is a mere one-fifth of the male income, which is also among the world’s lowest.

Prof Guha underlines different dimensions such as lack of role model, experience, supportive and cooperative environment, social capital, work-family balance, institutional size, structure and age, and non-cooperative employer, which act as barriers to women on board.

Patriarchy, gender status beliefs, gender stereotypes and norms, gender roles, discrimination, harassment and occupational segregation play a part among societal barriers.

Prof Guha identifies diversity policies, technological changes, demand for human resources, legal requirements, personal competencies, and national affirmative action as the success factors for women on boards.

women work on computer
Representative Image.

She explained her study, Women management in select industries with a sample size of 22 industries, 46 departments, three levels and 56 respondents using factor analysis with the objective:

  • Identify the factors impacting women in management.
  • Explore the status of women in management in Indian industries in Mumbai.
  • Understand why they are progressing in some industries and falling behind in others.
  • Explore the barriers and success factors for women’s career development, taking personal, work, social and organisational factors into consideration.

From the data description of executives’ qualifications, it was interesting to note that the doctorate percentage is more among women than men. While observing women’s representation as per their specialisation, it was evident that women’s representation in general and professional areas is more than in the technical field.

Level of Management Women Men
Top 2.1 22
Middle 12.1 47.5
Lower 5.2 11.1
Source: Findings from the Study

Prof Guha emphasises that women are mostly in middle-level management compared to the top and junior levels. It is also evident that top-level representation accounts for 91.1% of men and only 8.9% of women. “We think that by getting a good education and job, women are on the high side of the ladder, but the reality is something different,” Prof Guha said.

Sectors Women Men
Manufacturing 7.7 39.3
Services 11.8 41.3
Source: Findings from the Study

Industry-wise, women’s representation is maximum in the banking sector, followed by finance and engineering. Women are more at par with men in positions with experience up to 5 years, 6 to 10 years, and 11 to 15 years, and it drops drastically in the experience of above 30 years. Also, in gross salary per annum, as the wages increase above 25 lac per annum, women representation drops down.

Showcasing an exciting data set of representation in various executives’ departments, Prof Guha highlights that men are more in departments of civil, construction, export and import, procurement and marketing. On the other hand, women dominate in banking departments, retail management, intellectual property, administration and research, indicating prevailing occupational segregation and gender stereotyping problems in the country.

Women in management show emotional intelligence, extrovert personality, demography, technical and conceptual skills which are some personal factors and leave structure, work pressure, key assignments, key projects and nature of the job are work factors that play a major role in their growth the managerial levels.

Organisational factors of networking, organisational culture, work flexibility, organisational status, child support policies, training and development, tenure in the organisation and equal opportunities help women in their corporate growth. Social factors of patriarchy, discrimination, harassment, gender stereotypes, roles and bias play a negative role in women’s development.

people in office using computer
Representative Image.

Prof Guha underlines significant findings: low representation of women managers in Indian industries; women hold more positions in the service sector while manufacturing industries are still male intensive industries. The sectoral representation of women in Indian management shows more women working in specific private sectors’ departments than public sectors.

Prof Guha highlights the prevalence of issues of the glass ceiling and glass walls in Indian industries, gender pay gap at management positions, and promotional differences among men and women.

“Good economics is the gender equality, and it is not merely any charity. As long these attitudes persist, human resources will not flourish and be innovative,” says Prof Govind, executive director, Gendev Centre for Research and Innovation, Gurugram.

“We need to get out of our gender stereotyping thought to accepting glass ceiling as it is and need to empower ourselves and feel confident to ask for a pay raise or promotion in position and should not behave like a masculine figure,” says Prof Guha. Thus, organisational policies and state policies need to be revised.

There is an urgent need to change the primary education system to inculcate a sense of equality between males and females. The prevailing problem is multi-dimensional and complex. Hence, personal, social, and work-related factors need special consideration to create an atmosphere of equality among females and males in all spheres of life.

Acknowledgements: Nishi Verma is a research programs assistant at Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi.

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