At 25 – 40 per cent, the IT BPM sector ranks highest in employing women, which easily translates into a million jobs. Admittedly, in the leadership grid there’s a perceptible drop, sometimes even as low as 5 per cent. However, a compounded annual growth of 11 per cent of female recruits at entry level, clearly signals this sector continues to do many things right, and create a favourable environment for women to pursue their careers.
It is widely acknowledged across the industry and especially amongst the best in breed, that the case for gender inclusivity is one of business imperative. The need to innovate and stay competitive is an overriding one. Unarguably, women bring in a set of complementary skills and different approaches to problem-solving. Corporate report cards are replete with examples of gender inclusive companies which have performed favourably across the value chain. Perceptibly, well-balanced teams score higher, than those which are biased towards any one particular gender.
A professional career spans across several decades. From an Indian context (not very different in other countries) women would also have to critically balance this time in managing major changes in their personal lives – marriage and childbirth for instance. Without wanting to sound archetypal, the percentage of women who are expected to make a compromise in terms of career would be significantly higher, than otherwise. If leakages are to be arrested, and loss of talent minimized, then these enablers have to be in place and continually improved upon. Companies which are high on gender inclusivity – NASSCOM’s D&I award data would also reflect that – are focused on these enablers with a sense of purpose. Empirically, in Fortune 500 companies, only 6 per cent of positions like Chairman, President, CEO and COO are held by women. Clearly, the issue is not only India-centric. The proverbial glass-ceiling is actually a labyrinth that is complex, challenging and would have to be negotiated with, layer by layer in a career spanning several decades.
Increasingly, more people are seeking out entrepreneurship as a career option. Women constitute about six per cent, out of which, an overwhelming eighty-four per cent operate in the B2C segment. Blue Ocean is in B2B. But, operating in that segment would effectively entail a higher risk-appetite. Fostering an entrepreneurial eco-system is a subject in itself and beyond the scope of this article. Suffice to say, this community (stakeholders) too needs to undergo a mind shift, and create an environment which does not discriminate against women tech entrepreneurs.
NASSCOM’s D&I initiative is over a decade old and predominantly our role as a catalyst has been focused on engaging with the industry and building partnerships with governments, academia, media, and NGOs. With time, the shift in organizational thinking has been unmistakable. Wider in its scope today, inclusivity also extends to the differently abled. The approach in future will have to be more comprehensive and overarching. The tangible increase in outreach will have to be manifold. The Indian success stories will have to be show-cased in the global arena, and position these companies as best-of-the-breed employers. Staying ahead in future will be about attracting and retaining the best available talent. Workforce diversity would be a very important parameter. The power of social media can never be over-emphasized and that it has to be leveraged to get the right messaging across, is almost given.
Finally, and amongst the many positive developments, male employees are increasingly seen to be enthusiastically participative and supportive in equal measure. Though the issues affect a particular gender more specifically, but its impact is much wider. That, these changes can only happen if both genders work cohesively, is a message that has been adequately sensitized.
Methods, messaging & medium will have to continually adapt with the times and oscillating perceptions.