On the eve of International Women’s Day, new research from the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) shows that despite an upsurge of debates and measures to promote gender equity in the workplace, the representation of Indian women in senior positions remains a cause of concern. The survey finds a growing support for regulation to get women onto boards and facilitate their careers paths.

Globally, the proportion of senior roles filled by women in 2014 is 24%. This is exactly the same proportion as 2013, 2009 and 2007, and only 5% higher than the 19% recorded ten years ago in 2004. Regionally, there has been very little significant change over the past decade with Eastern Europe (37%), Southeast Asia (35%) and China (38%) leading the way. Japan (9%), India and the United Arab Emirates (both 14%) continue to prop up the table.

Pallavi J. Bakhru, Director, Grant Thornton Advisory Private Limited, said, “Recognising the need for encouraging a more expansive mind-set about the role of women in corporates, the Indian Government, through the new Companies Act, adopted a legislative approach to enforce change. The provisions of the new Act, dictating certain sets of companies to mandatorily appoint a women director to their boards, represent a promising progress for talented Indian women to break the glass ceiling.”

The IBR reveals that support for the introduction of quotas to get more women on boards is growing. In India, 64% of the business leaders would now like to see quotas for the number of women on the boards of large listed companies, up from 44% in 2013.

In addition to the legislative approach to promote and raise the number of females leading and overseeing management in public companies, businesses are also implementing measures which could make a real difference. Our research shows that majority of Indian companies are offering paid maternity leave (65%) and flexible working hours (59%) for creating a path for women to fill more senior roles and gain a firm footing in the workplace.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Nidhi Maheshwari, Senior Director – Markets, Grant Thornton Advisory Private Limited, stated, “Considering that at times, family takes precedence over career for most Indian women, the investment in enabling initiatives from the organisations need to be revisited. Addressing this deterrent for Indian working women to scale the corporate ladder requires corporates to take up more gender diversity program capable of delivering concrete results.”

Business actions 

  1. Improve mentoring: a little more than one in four Indian companies (28%) runs a specific programme to promote women’s leadership, as compared to one in four companies globally (24%).
  2. Relieve childcare burden: just 20% of Indian businesses reserve job roles of women on maternity leave for more than a year, and 16% provide each childcare vouchers, a salary increase (which might make returning to work more financially viable) and on-site childcare facilities. In contrast, globally, only 18% businesses offer childcare vouchers, 16% offer a salary increase (which might make returning to work more financially viable) and 6% offer on-site childcare facilities.
  3. Hire more female graduates: in an average year, just 14% of the graduates mid-market Indian businesses hire are women. The corresponding global figure of 21% calls for a need for India Inc to unpack the current male bias around hiring and promotion that is the key to increasing diversity

Download a copy of the report.