We have seen a societal shift for women in the recent past, (in contrast to earlier times). Focusing on this issue, the shift has been in diverse categories ranging from business to media to entertainment – to name a few.
What is the status? Realistically, across the globe it is seen that gender diversity in the business environment is low. And, specifically in the C-Suite it remains very low. Participation of women in the board of an organisation has been increasing, yet overall, the number of top women executives continues to be low. But, on the positive side, a slow change is noticeable, which is encouraging. And, hopefully, we may soon observe an increase in gender diversity in the C-Suite.
Today, it is seen that top women executives are likely to be found in positions that are not considered to have a natural stepping stone towards the role of CEO. So, in many cases, women are in slots like HR Director, or Chief Administrative Officer, rather than male-dominated roles such as COO, CMO or CFO – posts that are considered to be a prelude to becoming a CEO. Another glaring reality is that women top executives tend to be paid less than their male counterparts – an income disparity is visible across the board (not just in the C-Suite). This can be traced from the time that men and women begin their careers, and it gets more pronounced over the years.
Interestingly, after the #MeToo phenomenon made an appearance, it has brought about a whiff of change. This has surfaced in almost every industry. But although this powerful movement has brought immeasurable positive (and we can hope that it is a permanent change).
Gender diversity is in the limelight today. It has been proved that gender diversity in senior leadership roles did boost organizational performance! As a point to ponder, what that means for India is that the contribution that professional women can make is immense. With Indian women representing 50% of the population of the country, organizations cannot afford to overlook the question of women in senior slots. This could definitely work to strengthen corporate advantage and boost profitability.
Senior women professionals can usher in a new phase for organizations. We have many examples that have shown that when organizations show greater gender awareness, they automatically exhibit faster innovation, and improved customer relations. Plus, they also manage to attract better talent!
What could organizations do?
Organisations can implement actions right away to plug this gap. This can help bridge the gender gap, even before women reach the C-suite level. Some tips could be:
- Special training can be planned and implemented about unconscious bias at every level of the organisation
- Senior leadership can set up goals promoting women (starting from hiring)
- Initiate effective mentoring and sponsorship programs, allowing employees to seek career-advancement advice
- Focus on key promotions and grooming of managers to become strong candidates, to further diversity
Realistically, it is not that diversity is only a “racial” or “gender” issue. In order to help bridge the gap, organizations must pitch in to ensure they hire, cultivate and promote women in order to create a more diverse, stronger and more balanced workforce.
Taking a step back, if you look at all the progress women have made in the last 100 years, you can still observe that there’s still plenty left to do – to advance their roles and visibility in business. And, this is specially applicable to the C-suite.