Ideological revolution needed to empower corporate women

Ideological revolution needed to empower corporate women

New Delhi: A panel at the India Economic Summit in New Delhi on Monday discounted the use of job quotas for women in the corporate sector, but agreed that more needs to be done to close a perceived gender gap.

The concept of quotas tends to undermine merit as the main criterion for employment, felt participants in the discussion. Still, they agreed that women should play a bigger role in business structures.

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“We are making a big mistake by not capitalizing on female talent," said Vineet Nayyar, vice-chairman and CEO, HCL Technologies Ltd.

At the same discussion, minister of state for rural development Agatha K. Sangma observed: “India’s statistics of female labour has never been given accurate representation, with (the) domestic role always ignored."

Suresh Vaswani, a member of the board of Wipro Ltd, highlighted three stages of women’s professional life and suggested reforms in the organizational structure to suit them.

Vaswani’s first stage was of an ambitious, competitive woman at par with a man. In the second stage, the organization has to recognize her married and maternal roles and create a support system. The third stage was for the more experienced woman at middle management who have to be mentored to take over leadership roles.

Statistics can validate the lack of options as women comprise almost at 25-30% of a firm’s workforce at lower levels, but as they move up the ladder, the number dwindles down to almost 5%.

Mentoring and Vaswani’s opportunistic system is what would lead the way to a successful career for women and also help solve the issue of female executive retention, said Aisha De Sequeira, managing director of Morgan Stanley India.

But it is not all so grim as leading firms such as Wipro and HCL do make conscious efforts to keep the gender ratio 50:50 at the time of interviews for recruitments.

Sangma emphasized that just empowering women will be meaningless if the men are not taught why it was needed.