"Any society that fails to harness the energy and creativity of its women is at a huge disadvantage in the real world." - Tian Wei, CCTV News
The Indian economy has been growing at an unbelievably incredible pace, witnessing bouts of transformation and progress with each passing year. The women of the country have emerged as the frontrunners across diverse industries, changing the face of many businesses, and the economy at large. Their talent has the utmost potential to drive positive changes and build a prosperous nation. However, currently, women only contribute 18% to India's GDP, while the global average is close to 37%, as per a McKinsey Report released in 2018. The dismal figures leave behind a slight doubt, and question the very progress that the country talks about.
A McKinsey Global study conducted in 2015 stated that India could raise its GDP by 16-60% by 2025 if it enables women to participate in the economy at par with men. Women empowerment in the workforce, therefore, could never be more important than now, and the onus of the change lies on us all.
To begin with, organizations across the country must recognize and appreciate the qualities and strengths of their female workers. Many forward-thinking companies have executed strong favourable policies to attract more women talent and ensure their maximum participation. However, it's time that more companies now join the wagon and work towards bringing about a bigger change, a change that would put the nation on the path of progress. Research has already confirmed that companies that are focused towards empowering women report significant business growth and profitability over the period of time. Certain ways through which this could be achieved are listed below -
1) Give women more leadership roles - Sadly, India still reports a very low representation of female leaders at the highest tiers of business. Looking up, we gain only a grim view; a dismally low percent of women occupying the top, leadership roles. Companies should therefore strive to attract the right women talent into senior leadership roles and give them opportunity to showcase their talent in the corporate board rooms. A report by McKinsey & Company states that companies with the highest share of women in their senior management teams actually outperformed those with no women by 41 per cent. A strong step towards women empowerment was taken when in 2015, the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) made it compulsory for all Indian public companies to have at least one woman director on their board. This, and many other strong changes which have been introduced in the past, pave the way upwards for women and give a positive boost to their careers.
2) Foster a strong culture - It is important for companies to imbibe a culture where women are understood, valued and encouraged to undertake equal responsibilities as their male counterparts, where their achievements are appreciated and their perspectives respected and implemented. The top management must work towards promoting an environment where women can grow and succeed. Organizations that fail to provide such a diversely constructive and supportive environment along with a culture of inclusion, stand a risk of lagging behind in the competitive race.
3) Ensure safety and security - This must be the topmost priority of all organizations that employ women - taking measures to ensure their utmost safety at the workplace. It could be achieved through a number of ways like providing safe transport facilities, creating strict policies towards harassment, using technology like installing CCTV cameras for continuous monitoring, employing adequate security staff, etc. Definitely, organizations are continuing with their efforts to provide a safe working environment to the women workers, but the measures need to be strengthened to ensure that women are treated with utmost dignity and respect.
4) Offer flexibility - Acknowledging the fact that women play multiple important roles in their lives and need to get into various shoes outside office as well, it is extremely important that they are granted the comfort and convenience so that they could fulfil all roles and responsibilities with ease and efficiency. These benefits could be in the form of flexible work schedules, child care benefits and other women-friendly practices, which would go a long way in ensuring a healthy, happy and motivated workforce.
5) Promote training and professional development of women - To help women advance in their roles and careers, it is important that companies invest in the career progression of women employees. This could be done by conducting regular training sessions and undertaking various learning and development initiatives, which would help them enhance their existing skills and graduate to leadership positions. This would also give them an opportunity to earn more and would promote job satisfaction. The benefits of holding such training programs would be mutual, as it would also have a positive impact on the company's business. Many organizations have already designed various unique learning platforms for women, through which they could build on their leadership skills and decision-making capabilities. This is apart from the technical training required to perform the specific roles.
Women are the real harbingers of our society and are taking charge of leadership like never before. We are certainly living in a better world, where women empowerment has come a long way. However, this is just the beginning. There still lies a gap which needs to be bridged; the nation looks forward to a future which is absolutely equal!
(The author is Vice President, HR and Recruitment at To The New)