'Gender diversity in the C-suite still missing'

IMPACT Top 50 Influential Women List Jury Meet: Top industry leaders come together to discuss the 157 entries received this year

e4m by exchange4media Staff
Updated: Feb 15, 2019 9:15 AM

Progressive and award-winning advertising like Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad notwithstanding, India ranks fifth lowest in having women in leadership roles. India's ranking in gender diversity with the representation of women in top leadership positions stood at 20 per cent, according to a study by Grant Thornton. While this was an improvement over 2017 when the representation was 17 per cent, 30 per cent of the respondents still said they have no women in leadership roles. 

This is not all. India ranks 120 among 131 countries in female labour force participation rates, according to The World Bank. In fact, the economic contribution of Indian women is less than half the global average at just 17 per cent and is lower than China’s 40 per cent. 

While there is a steady improvement in representation, the opinion of the industry leaders judging the IMPACT 50 Most Influential Women list was that gender diversity in the C-suite in particular is still not as good as they would like it to be. Sam Balsara, Chairman & MD, Madison World, who has been the jury chair for this list for the last eight years, felt that while the number of women coming into the advertising and communications business is increasing, the reason there are very few women at the top is because, “Unfortunately, I have observed that some women do drop out mid-way in their careers because they get married or move cities, have children, and are not able to cope with both work and home life.”

“It is not because they lack talent or because anybody is working against them,” he asserted. 

One of the jurors, Shalini Kamath, Founder & CEO, SK & Associates, said it is in fact becoming harder for women to go up the ladder in corporate structures for multiple reasons. “Many women in senior leadership positions have told me that they got tired trying to influence and get their point of view across in a male-dominated thought process.” She said women like these have decided to get off the beaten track and do something themselves that gives them satisfaction. “A lot of women are moving out and starting their own entrepreneurial ventures and running them very successfully.”  

Anuradha Aggarwal, Former CMO, Marico, felt that it will take some time till it becomes a truly gender-neutral world. “The percentage of women in leadership positions and boards on their merit and not just by reservation is still a small number. There is a lot of influence but it is directly proportional to the roles that women are holding and the number of roles they are holding. Their population in large companies is still small.” 

While the representation may be small, there are incremental changes that are resulting in women exerting more influence in their sphere of work. The big shift that Animesh Kumar, Chief People Officer, Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited, has noticed over two decades as an HR professional, is that women don’t see themselves as women first and then as professionals. “I know it is a very small shift but it has a very radical impact on how women deploy themselves at work. I see that women see themselves as professionals first, and their gender is immaterial. It is this point of getting gender blind that is a phenomenal development,” he observed. 

Not everything is bleak though. Punitha Arumugham, Platform Evangelist, Hotstar, who was on the jury for the second time this year, felt that the list of candidates eligible to be on the list was getting longer. There were totally 157 entries in 2019, the highest so far. “This shows more and more women getting in our industry and establishing themselves as leaders,” she said. Arumugham also said that the number of choices the jury had for every ranking reflects the number of successful women in the industry today.

The IMPACT Top 50 Influential Women list will be unveiled in Mumbai in March. Watch this space for more updates. 

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