The world is a paradoxical place to live in. You start a day feeling proud that an annual list of The World’s 100 Most Powerful Women includes four Indian women, and then you are hit by an excerpt from the World Economic Forum Summit stating India ranks 145th among the 153 countries studied, reporting one of the lowest participation of women in economic activity.
Gender pay disparity and lower representation of women in leadership roles and boardrooms continue to be areas where corporates are continuously challenged to do more. In parallel, you are amazed by the story of celebrity chef Ritu Dalmia, honoured and revered by her fan following for her culinary prowess. That amazement turns to shock when you hear about the bullying she faced, when she chose to acknowledge her sexual orientation. This shock subsides and optimism rises, when you receive an email about the promotion of a deserving female colleague. As you make your way to a ‘Diversity and Inclusion’ event organised at work titled, “Breaking Barriers”, you think to yourself, maybe there is not as much disparity after all!
Before questioning which of the above is a true representation of gender diversity status in India, let’s agree that Inclusion in the workplace is a commitment for all progressive organisations, a success story for few and work-in-progress for most. Therefore, what can organisations do to create an egalitarian and inclusive workplace for women?
Like every year, as part of our annual research in India, this year we assessed 852 organisations to identify India’s 100 Best Workplaces™ for Women 2020. Of them, 516 organisations met the eligibility criteria. Great Place to Work® Certified™ organisations that met the criteria were then evaluated further to arrive at India’s 100 Best Workplaces for Women. Throughout this article, India’s 100 Best Workplaces for Women will be referred to as “Best” and other 752 companies will be referred to as “Rest”.
How do ‘best’ workplaces look different from the ‘rest’?
A look at the engagement indicators signify that, overall, Best organisations create a superior experience for both men and women as compared to Rest. This can be clearly attributed to a genuine intent to build high-trust organisations that create a conducive environment FOR ALL employees to thrive.
An employee at B. Braun Medical India says, “I have not faced any challenges in building a professional career at B. Braun... I am treated like a team member irrespective of my gender. This organisation has 30% women employees, which shows that it is a friendly workplace for women.”
Our research indicates that Best workplaces also enjoy a parity of experience between men and women across key indicators of workplace experience as well (See: Level field). The independent auditing lens used by the Great Place to Work® Institute that evaluates the quality of People Policies also reflected higher scores for Best as compared to the Rest, especially in areas of Workplace Inclusion and Employee Development.
‘WILL’ is a leadership development programme aimed at the women employees at Intuit, which focuses on building leadership attributes such as risk-taking, being assertive, and owning one’s career. Targeted towards women engineers who are at staff and senior software engineer levels, the programme’s goal is to expand the leadership capabilities of the highest potential employees in middle management.
Fairness is the hallmark of an inclusive workplace, which provides confidence to employees that their voices will be heard and that they will receive a response (See: Talent management). Amongst all the Best organisations, 89% have appointed someone to address discrimination and promote diversity. Only 63% of the Rest indicated the presence of such support. This is also reflected in how employees returned feedback on fair appeal between both groups — 82% of women in the Best organisations believed that they will be given a fair hearing if they appeal against unfair treatment, while only 73% believed that in the Rest.
Retention scores can be a great metric to understand if employees find the workplace attractive and convenient enough to remain associated. Compared to 2019, while the retention score for the Best organisations remained constant at 84, the Rest saw a dip of 4%. We identified four factors that drive retention at all levels. We summarise the findings by proposing the LEAD model of retention for women employees.
SHE LEADs model
L – Leadership Pipeline
Best workplaces ensure that women can grow from strength to strength. Their practices help them create a strong leadership pipeline by equipping women with the right skills for career progression, as well as assigning roles. In the Best organisations, 82% of women believed that the management does a good job of assigning roles and managing people, while only 71% said that in the Rest. The Best also scored better in training and professional development of women, with 81% vouching for this, compared to only 70% vouching for this in the Rest. In the Best, 80% of the women said that the management does a good job of developing managers for leadership roles, while only 71% said this in the Rest.
The accelerate programme for women leaders, at the vice president level at the NatWest Group India, provides the tools and inspiration for women to manage their own careers successfully. It consists of six one-day modules over six months that helps build their self-awareness and map out their next steps to maximise their potential. It focuses on the areas that are typically more challenging for women in business.
E - Equitable environment
Best organisations regularly strive to create a sense of equity for women and treat them as ‘a full member’ regardless of their position. By focusing on pay parity, unbiased and equitable profit-sharing plans, Best workplaces also create ground for better engagement and higher retention.
We also found similar sentiment in the space of fairness in compensation — at Best workplaces, 74% believe that they are paid fairly for the work they do, versus 62% at the Rest. It must be clear by now, that the Best workplaces take conscious care to build programmes that enable them to be equal and equitable workplaces. In fact, 65% of the Best workplaces conduct an Equal Pay Audit, compared to only 42% of the Rest.
A happy employee at InMobi Technology Services says, “There is no discrimination based on gender. If I ever feel such a thing may be happening, all teams have their HR point-of-contact, with whom we can discuss and resolve the issue. No matter who I am, I have the same stage as anyone else in the company to speak up, discuss ideas and question things. No ideas are unwelcome.”
A - Acknowledge Individuality
Genuine and sincere care is one of the key retention drivers for women. The Best workplaces show care and concern towards women, making workplaces safer and healthier places to come to (See: Well-being in focus). While 57% of the Best organisations offer unpaid career breaks, only 38% of the Rest offer that. An employee from Intuit says, “I have seen deserving women getting promoted when they are about to go for maternity leave, which is the best expression of acknowledging effort and celebrating women.”
D - Define a sense of purpose
A higher sense of purpose is critical to driving engagement among employees. Our research indicates that across levels, the feeling that one’s work has deeper meaning than merely being a job is a significant driver for retention. Such a sentiment generates a sense of pride and a deeper sense of belongingness that leads to sustained relationships (See: Creating belongingness). An employee at Sony Pictures Networks India says, “What makes this place great is the fact that it doesn’t matter whether an idea is related to the scope of the work that the employee or organisation does. As long as there’s merit in it, it will see the light of the day.”
The Best workplaces make a conscious choice every day. They make a conscious choice to be better and be more for all their employees. They fully know that these years are crucial to building a truly differentiated business for the future. A good majority — 79% — of the Best workplaces have started tapping into alternate talent pools, making themselves accessible to the persons-with-disabilities community. However, they also know it will take a firm resolve and strong people policies on part of India Inc to create a truly inclusive experience for their employees and customers alike. The destination is clear and the Best are set on the journey. What’s your next step?