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Women on top? We don't think so.
“We need more women in leadership.”
“Organisations must help shatter the glass ceiling.”
“Gender diversity in the workplace is a priority.”
How often have you heard these statements? A majority of companies report that gender diversity at the workplace is one of the top priorities, but a report published by McKinsey & Co. on ‘Women in the Workplace’ in 2019, reveals some disturbing statistics, and we’re using a very mild adjective here.
In reality, only a third of workers even felt their managers viewed gender diversity as a top priority. If you take women out of the mix, the numbers are even lower. While this report surveyed around 329 companies in North America, the situation in India is no different. It’s not to say that the last two decades haven’t witnessed a generation of women participating in the workforce and asserting themselves. We admire the success of Jacinda Ardern, Indra Nooyi and Sheryl Sandberg today, but even in 2020, getting to where they are is a dream far too surreal for most women.
According to a report by Grant Thornton, India is fifth from the bottom when it comes to having women in top leadership positions. Fifth from the bottom, let that sink in.
Why are women not able to reach the top?
Several preset systems and perceptions have created this glass ceiling but here’s what forms the real underbelly of the issue. The McKinsey report says that 48% of the corporate pipeline is occupied by women at the entry-level. However, when it comes to reaching the C-suite or the top of the pipeline, this number drops to 21%.
Do women leave their jobs due to a traditional corporate setup or work-life balance challenges? Well, the primary reasons are something different.
The Missing Steps There is disparity at the first level itself, rightly termed as ‘the broken rung’. For every 100 men hired and promoted at the entry-level, only 72 women are hired and promoted. This number decreases at every subsequent level. The rate of progress is so slow that it will take more than 200 years to achieve parity at the C-suite level! Which then brings us to -
Low representation of women in managerial posts
In the USA, only 38% of managerial positions are held by women. In India, only 16% of women currently hold leading business roles according to the National Statistical Office (NSO). This means women at the entry-level have fewer women to look up to- even as mentors or advisors.
Unfair playing field
“Women are much more likely to have missed out on an assignment or advancement, and that they are less often consulted on important decisions, because of their gender,” says the study. In India, women are still looked at as primary caregivers for children and the family. A handful of conversations with ‘working mothers’ in India will reveal that the discussion of maternity leave would either have stalled their growth trajectory or, has nipped it forever. Sexual harassment at work is also far too common.
Women have no dependable networks
A strong network and support group is vital for career advancements. Due to lack of women at the top, these networks, like YPO, often end up being an ‘all boy’s club’ with agendas that do not take into account the challenges a woman faces to advance to senior leadership levels.
What are the solutions then?
More women in managerial roles and a clear culture of diversity will definitely help.
But what could change the game in favor of women is the opportunity to interact with other women, who are determined to shatter the glass ceiling. And when we say interact, we mean high-quality engagement with pre-determined goals, not token networking and social dos.
At leap, we are building a platform to help more women reach leadership positions.
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Women on top? Yes, please!