While there is a lot of talk about gender diversity in business, it is heartening to note that businesswomen in India rank third in the world among women working in senior leadership roles. The rise of women is perhaps a reflection of the positive change in the country’s attitude towards the female workforce.
According to a report released by the global accounting and consulting firm Grant Thornton, India ranks third among women working in senior management positions. The report, “Women in Business 2021”, adds that the percentage of women in senior management for India stood at 39%, against the global average of 31%. This is a hint of the changing outlook of Indian businesses towards working women.
Even the proportion of women leaders across key positions in the country’s C-Suite was higher than the global average. While globally, businesses with at least one woman in the senior management role increased to 90%, the report said the same stands at 98% in India. About 47% of mid-market businesses in India now have women chiefs compared with 26% globally.
Before we take a look at the encouraging growth of women’s leadership in business in India, it is important to understand the role women play in the country’s economy and the impact of women-led businesses in India.
Indian Women’s Role in the Economy
According to statistics released by the federal government, 20.37% of women are MSME owners which accounts for 23.3% of the labor force in India. These women are considered to be the backbone of the country’s economy. A McKinsey Global report states India can potentially add $700 billion to the global GDP by increasing women’s participation in the labor force. The percentage of women working in the manufacturing and agriculture sectors is higher than that of men. These sectors are usually credited with helping families come out of poverty and contributing to higher household income. Moreover, literacy rates among women grew by 8.8% in FY21, which further highlights the bright prospects of women entrepreneurs in the country.
Women-led Business in India
Women-led businesses in India provide a great impetus to the country’s economy. India has 432 million working-age women and 13.5 –15.7 million women-owned businesses that provide direct employment to 22–27 million people. In addition, women control several other businesses in India. Indian women are independent and have a solid motivation to launch their businesses. According to Boston Consulting Group, start-ups founded or co-founded by women generate 10% more cumulative revenue over five years. These start-ups have a more inclusive work culture and employ 3x more women than men. Moreover, women-led businesses are estimated to grow by 90% in the next five years.
Impact of Covid-19 on Indian Women’s Career
The Covid-19 pandemic forced businesses to diversify their workforce globally, even in India. The analysis of the Grant Thornton report states that 59% of Indian women received help with an environment to thrive compared to 43% globally. Likewise, 59% of Indian businesses endeavored to promote work-life balance, while 52% adapted to new developments to change the environment, which are the biggest priorities for women. Compared to this, the global numbers are 45% and 38%, respectively. About 88% of respondents in India said that they believed new working practices would benefit women’s career trajectories in the long term, compared with 69% globally.
Gender Balance Initiatives for Indian Women
The report further stated that Indian businesses had taken numerous initiatives to promote gender balance. The top ones include ensuring equal opportunities, creating an inclusive culture, rewards for completing senior management targets and providing mentorship. Referring to the report’s findings, Grant Thornton’s partner, Pallavi Bakhru, said, “Under the challenging circumstances of 2020, the boundaries between work and home have blurred. In this scenario, it is good to see action being taken by businesses to ensure employee engagement and inclusion.”
Meanwhile, Grant Thornton Bharat CEO Vishesh C. Chandiok said that the report reflects the willingness of businesses to adapt, innovate and create a diverse culture. “It is heartening to note India ranks higher than its global counterparts in creating a gender-inclusive culture. We are third with 39% women in senior management positions. With more women taking on leadership roles and diversity onboard, businesses will open new growth opportunities.”
Another report said that 82% of Indian mid-market businesses actively work on their gender balance.
Evolving Leadership Roles for Indian Women
Compared to the above data, 26% of global businesses now have a female CEO, followed by 36% CFOs and 22% COOs. The numbers show the enthusiasm Indian businesses have shown in actively encouraging working women. The post-quarantine climate has been an eye-opener for businesses. The top brass has realized that they need to access the full potential of their workforce to be a winner. These figures serve as a paramount encouragement to all working women and reinforce the idea that with more women taking on leadership roles and diversity onboard, businesses will open new opportunities for growth for women.