Gender bias in corporate India: The journey from diversity to inclusion

By Shantanu Das

A 2015 study stated that increasing women’s labor force participation by 10 percentage points could add $700 Bn to India’s GDP by 2025.

For a long time in corporate India, Diversity initiatives equaled initiatives to remove gender bias and promote equality of the sexes in terms of opportunity, pay, career growth & everything else. Simply put an organization which consciously or unconsciously creates a preference or prejudice towards one gender over another practices gender bias. Unfortunately, in India where women compromise only about 28% of the organized workforce the bias is against them. It is factually correct to say that having greater women participation will positively impact the GDP of India. A 2015 study stated that increasing women’s labor force participation by 10 percentage points could add $700 Bn to India’s GDP by 2025. Unlike the western world, we are still in the early stages of removing gender bias and efforts are centered around three pillars – Hiring Women across roles, Equal Pay for Equal Work and Participation/Representation in leadership forums.

One of the most significant areas to remove gender bias is Hiring. There are roles which are considered more suitable for men than women, example – sales or shop floor jobs in manufacturing plant. It is important to match job requirement with candidate skills and not gender. Unfortunately, at times the hiring manager’s perception & assumptions negatively impact the decision. 48.5% of India’s population is female however they constitute only about 28% of the workforce and this is an important indicator of how prevalent this bias is.

Equal pay for equal work is a fundamental right; however, a 2017 report by the Ministry of statistics & program implementation indicates that women in urban areas with a graduate or higher degree earn 24% less than their male counterparts. For an organization to remove any gender bias & encourage inclusion it is important that all employees feel equally valued and are paid in line with their performance & not their gender.

Participation of women in forums which are involved in critical decision-making is yet another measure of an organizations success in eliminating gender bias. This could be in the form of women being part of the CXO level, Board of Directors or special decision-making bodies of an organization. Having a gender diverse leadership team ensures diversity of thought which is critical to building a creative, vibrant & thriving workplace. When we have diverse voices at the table and honor and acknowledge different perspectives during decision making, better choices are made. Data indicates that companies with greater gender diversity outperform those with less often by as much as 30%.

Progress is being made, however slowly. Gender parity is not just good for women, its good for societies & economies. Ensuring we have gender supportive workplaces and hence societies needs to be everyone’s priority.

Source: People Matters

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