The number of high-profile women CEOs and leaders who get featured regularly in publications could lead you into believing that gender disparity at the workplace is a thing of the past in corporate India. However, the ground reality is that while there has been some progress in reducing inequality at the workplace between the genders, there is a lot left to be achieved.
A 2015 study by Catalyst, a leading non-profit organisation with offices across the globe, showed that men outnumber women three to one in most organisations in India. In higher ranks, the ratio becomes worse - women account for only about 14 per cent in the executive officer level. The Catalyst report suggests that while there has been a small improvement in urban India in women participation in the workforce, it is still far from satisfactory. Worse, the report finds that the pay disparity is immense.
Meanwhile, the World Economic Forum (WEF) report 2016 mentions that women generally earn 57 per cent of what their male counterparts do while performing similar jobs. The more educated a woman is, the higher the gap. And, as women rise up the career ladder, the gap keeps increasing. A WEF report on gender disparity in 2016 also found that India still ranks at number 87. It had improved by eight ranks the previous year, but it was still far behind the best countries around the world.
This is not to suggest that gender disparity and discrimination against women is not a global phenomenon. In the past year, a number of disturbing cases have come to light in Silicon Valley about both gender discrimination as well as the toxic "bro culture" in high-profile start-ups.
Over the past couple of years, the Government of India has taken a number of steps to improve women's representation in organisations and also working conditions for women employees. The steps range from making it mandatory for all boards to have at least one woman director, and increasing the length of the maternity leave in organisations.
However, laws will never help in bridging the gender disparity gap, and it is more likely that organisations will take steps to improve the diversity in their employee ranks only when they see the value of having a diverse workforce on their bottom lines. A number of studies - from respected consultancies such as McKinsey and Deloitte - suggest that there is a correlation between better diversity and better financial performance.
As our annual Most Powerful Women in Business Survey shows, there is no dearth of role models for women in the workplace. Women achievers can be found in every sector and every profession. This year, we also started a new category called "Impact Women" in our survey. In this, our jury picked the women who had been doing exceptional work at the grassroots level.