Let us trace the journey of Indian women in the workplace today from the time they graduate.
They start out as 43 percent of tertiary-level women graduates. Yet, they constitute only about 28 percent of entry- level professionals.
Too big a gap to be explained? Not really, considering that 63 percent of the women we surveyed in our 2019 Gender Perception Survey felt discriminated against on grounds of gender at the time of hiring.
Let’s move a few years down the line. What do we see? The number of women in the middle management level has slumped to 16 percent. It is not a coincidence again that 88 percent of the women felt they faced more hurdles at work because of their gender. And 59 percent strongly felt that they missed out on growth opportunities or unfavorable performance reviews as they were going on, or returning from maternity leave. Any finally only 4 percent make it to senior leadership level.
Glass ceiling? Blocked pipeline is more like it. The question is, can organizations afford this massive block in their talent pipeline?
There is good news on this front. India does not have any legal mandate that restricts women from entering the workforce at any level. So it is entirely in the hands of the government, organizations and the women themselves to set right this pathetic imbalance in workforce participation.
Governments should create strong awareness, especially in Tier2 and 3 locations – to both girls and their parents. Simultaneously, they need to make available better infrastructure and levels of education and skill development. Creating higher number of jobs in the formal and organized sector would the ultimate step. This will motivate girls to move into work and not drop out (as is the case now) after studies. would be another.
And now to the all-important factor of wage parity. The ILO’s ‘Global Wage Report 2018-19’ reports that a 34 percent wage gap exists between men and women in India. According to the latest 'Monster Salary Index' (MSI) report, men with 0-2 years of experience, earned 7.8 per cent higher median wages than women, and those with 6-10 years of experience earned 15.3 per cent more. When it comes to an experience level of 11 years and more, men earn 25 per cent higher median wages than women.
Both through legislation and organizations’ ethical practices organizations must ensure that women receive equal pay – even if they avail benefits (maternity benefits, flexible working hours, extended time off, etc.). This was unanimous across gender - 85 percent of women and 69 percent men subscribed to this view.
70 percent of Indian companies are reported to be struggling to find candidates with relevant skills. It is high time India Inc. stopped blaming the talent pipeline and addressed diversity and inclusion differently – and with seriousness.