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Leadership roles for women in startups shrink further in 2020

A conscious effort needs to be made in this direction by startup founders and women employees must be made part of the critical decision-making processes (MINT_PRINT)Premium
A conscious effort needs to be made in this direction by startup founders and women employees must be made part of the critical decision-making processes (MINT_PRINT)

The gender gap in leadership teams of startups has been persisting. The survey we did last year showed that close to 45% of founders had less than 10% women in leadership roles, says CEO of Innoven Capital India

BENGALURU : Gender disparity across the Indian startup ecosystem has increased in 2020 with nearly 77% of firms having less than 20% women in leadership roles, compared to 69% in 2019, according to a report, Startup Outlook Report 2021, by Innoven Capital.

Gender diversity continues to be a challenge and there has been no improvement over the last few years, the report said.

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This is compared to 69% startups, with less than 20% of women in leadership roles last year, as per the report ‘Startup Outlook Report 2021’.

“Gender gap in leadership teams of startups has been persisting. Our last year’s survey showed that close to 45% of founders had less than 10% women in leadership roles. Whether it is founders hiring from STEM backgrounds, or making lateral hires from corporate leadership pools, there is a gap in gender diversity already prevailing which is spilling over to startups as well," said Ashish Sharma, chief executive, Innoven Capital India.

Around 100 founders participated in the Innoven survey ranging from early and growth to late stage startups including unicorns.

Vanishri Deshpande, founder and CEO of HR tech startup Spottabl, said more conscious effort needs to be made in this direction from startup founders, where women employees are made part of critical decision-making processes to get a diverse view.

“There is a lack of conscious effort to bring diversity in leadership teams. Whether it is mid-senior roles or leadership hiring, close to 93% of Indian founders who approach us, never mention a criterion to hire women leaders. It is a mindset issue since founders are looking to close talent acquisition on an immediate basis, and by putting a filter of hiring women, they feel the hiring process might be delayed further," said Deshpande who has previously headed talent hiring at Flipkart and Practo.

Talent acquisition executives said job descriptions in startups continue to be completely skill-based with less focus on soft-cultural aspects like employee attitude and drive to succeed.

“Founders are also not looking at spaces where women exist. Women leadership count in startups is diminishing further since there isn’t any conscious effort to understand their societal challenges, and timelines are set without any consent. Sense of urgency becomes important before anything else," Deshpande added.

“To have women in the workplace takes conscious investments, and startups have limited resources to focus their energies. Then there is cultural bias, for instance towards mothers, where small-teamed startups assume that it would be difficult to give them flexibility, which would increase workloads for other team members," said Anjali Raghuvanshi, Chief People Officer at Randstad India, a human resource consulting firm.

Raghuvanshi added that instead of ascribing to stereotypes, hiring managers should let female candidates decide on the effort and commitment they are willing to put in.

There are also gender stereotypes associated with technology hiring which act as hurdles to hiring women in engineering teams, recruiters said.

The report said 72% of founders surveyed believe that hiring will be higher, as compared to 2020 when layoffs took center-stage. The survey also added that close to 60% founders believe that they’d give exits to their investors in the next 3-5 years, with the exit timeline for late-stage founders expected to be the next 2 years.

Additionally, 47% of founders feel that IPO is a likely mode of exit with 70% of growth and late-stage founders looking at a public market exit. This comes at a time when late-stage companies such as Zomato, Delhivery, PolicyBazaar amongst others are planning a public listing.

In spite of the pandemic hitting the startup ecosystem, 77% of founders continued to prioritise growth over profitability, according to the survey.



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