Perplexed! There is no better way to define how I feel about the current state of affairs—and no, it’s not just the pandemic. The world is moving fast, corporates are constantly creating and innovating to thrive in a competing worldwide market. And yet, in this fast-paced world, the efforts in India towards gender diversity are slow and far from sustained.
According to the International Labour Organization, while more women are joining the workforce around the globe, India presents reverse trends. Since 2010, female economic participation-to-population ratio in India has dropped by 18%. While gender diversity and an inclusive workforce is no longer a contemplated agenda for business, most organisations struggle to get it right.
Our research at Great Place to Work® Institute reveals a disproportionate representation of men and women across various organisational sectors. In India, men are 11 times more likely to be employed in industrial and 3.3 times in service sectors when compared to women. On the other hand, in agricultural, NGOs, and educational sectors there is an equitable representation of both the genders.
The aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis has only intensified challenges for women at work.
This marks a critical moment for corporate India—choices leaders make today will not only impact their organisation but also the community.
The representation of women in the formal workforce remains similar to the overall economic participation reported by the World Economic Forum*. Great Place to Work® Institute’s research reveals that 21% of the workforce on an average consists of women. However, we found some organisations are slowly trending in the right direction and building their talent pipeline. Today, at 27%, the participation of women in these organisations is higher than the rest. This is also one crucial element, along with employee experience and practices, that make them the Best Workplaces™ for Women 2021.
This year, for the 4th edition of India’s Best Workplaces™ for Women, we assessed 712 organisations across 23 different industries, representing the voice of more than 23 lakh employees of which around 5 lakh are women. Of these companies, 512 organisations met the eligibility criteria for the study, of having at least 10% women representation and 70% positive feedback on Trust Index© Grand Mean (Average of 56 core statements of Trust Index©) from employees who identified as women. Further, the Great Place to Work® Certified™ organisations were evaluated to arrive at India’s 150 Best Workplaces™ for Women 2021, honouring 100 organisations with employee strength of more than 500 (large category), and 50 with employee strength between 100 and 500 (mid-sized category).
Going Beyond the Numbers – What creates a ‘Great’ workplace experience?
The Best Workplaces™ for Women are not only able to attract talent and build an equitable workforce but have also mastered the formula for building and sustaining a High-Trust, High-Performance Culture™.
Since last year, most organisations around the world have been adjusting to a digital and dispersed workforce and leaders at SAS Research and Development have outlined a great strategy to manage this change. In 2020, SAS introduced ‘reboarding’ for existing employees to succeed in today’s workplace and not just the workplace they were trained at for years, or even decades. They invited existing tenured employees to get reboarded and keep abreast with SAS’ new way of working and also to revisit the organisation’s history, vision, mission, goals, values, policies and practices, technical know-how (must-haves) and culture.
Like SAS, the Best Workplaces stand out in creating a consistent experience for both men and women as compared to the rest. This is evident as the rest show a stark difference across key engagement indices among their workforces.
Interestingly, 79% of the women employees who feel that they are at a great workplace are 26 times more likely to stay with their current organisation for a long time.
Lessons from the Best Workplaces reveal that fairness is the foundational pillar of trust, and on an average, at the Best Workplaces, 10% more women report experiencing a sense of fairness at work when compared to the Rest. However, what really differentiates Best Workplaces from the Rest is the culture that demonstrates and enables gender parity much more than just creating a level playing field.
Leaders of the Best Workplaces have reinforced the need for a caring and supportive environment as they gear up to welcome their employees back to the office space. To establish an inclusive and conducive environment, these organisations acknowledge the unique needs and provide special benefits, create a sense of work-life balance and strive to make the workplace a psychologically and emotionally a healthy place for their employees.
Like many Best Workplaces Vodafone Itelligence Services (VOIS), believes in fostering inclusion through employee wellbeing. It is part of the VOIS commitment to introduce support, assistance, training, and awareness to ensure that all their employees feel comfortable seeking help. They have a comprehensive toolkit for those experiencing menopause and for the people supporting them. The toolkit is currently available in English, Spanish, & Italian with more languages to follow and can be accessed via Vodafone University with more languages to follow. VOIS’ global commitment to menopause is part of their aim to build a more inclusive culture and desire for women to see VOIS as the place to be for their career through all stages of their working life.
Great Leaders make a conscious choice to do better for their people. But are they doing enough? Our research reveals that managers are the crucial link between an organisation’s people practices and the resultant employee experience. However, most workplaces struggle to deliver a flawless experience for their managers as well as through their managers.
The ‘Middle’ is Where it all Falls Apart – How can Managers be ‘Managed’?
While many organisations strive to narrow the gap between men and women, they fail to manage gaps across levels. Even among women the experience remains inconsistent and the most prominent gaps exist across communication, career development and talent management.
The difference in experience widens at the top. Women in managerial positions are far less likely than executives to believe that management is accessible, makes expectations clear, involves them in decisions, attracts and develops the right talent or that performance is fairly evaluated.
Communication is vital. At Best Workplaces, critical aspects of work rest upon open and healthy communication between leaders and employees.
Talent nurtured is talent retained. Leaders at most workplaces understand the value of training and developing their people, but leaders at Best Workplaces work towards aligning business goals and professional development of their workforce.
While it may be impossible to completely eliminate the difference in experience at workplaces, our research shows that the Best Workplaces that have managed to narrow the gap have a more productive workforce with higher brand advocacy, stronger intent to stay and improved motivation.
Role Modeling, Diverse and Effective Leadership
Great leaders inspire everyone to act, are consistent and sincere. Leaders are perceived to be effective when they develop authentic connections with the people they work with and outline a cohesive business strategy. One of the key elements of effective leadership is diverse leadership. However, men significantly outnumber women at senior executive positions. In India, men are seven times more likely to hold executive positions than women.
At Great Place to Work® Institute, our research shows that diverse leadership teams are better for people and better for business. Organisations that have 10% or more women in senior management positions show 1.27 times higher employee engagement, 1.25 times more effective leadership and 1.46 times more growth in revenue.
The Way Forward
So far, we highlighted the movement and trends in the economic landscape, differentiated employee experience in the Best Workplaces and the benefits of leadership that is human-centric. We believe the business case for a diverse, equitable and inclusive workforce is strong, and leaders must take actions for greatness beyond business boundaries.
Here are some leadership imperatives for creating a great place to work for all through representation, experience and people practice:
1) Opening doors for untapped talent: While women and other minority groups are gravely underrepresented in the workforce, the potential for talent is very high. The challenge, however, is to identity different needs and obstacles that different demographics face. Organisations must identify aspects that drive retention, well-being, and innovation among this workforce to ensure seamless integration.
2) From managers to leaders: Managers form a crucial channel between the frontline and the top management. However, in most workplaces, it is a weak link and weaker when it comes to managing women employees. Leaders must make a conscious effort to identify gaps, outline leadership coaching and development programmes & develop systems for feedback to action channels.
3) Returning to the new normal: The aftermath of the pandemic has redefined work and workplaces and as we gradually talk about return to work, organisations must focus on a seamless transition. With the emergence of hybrid working models, flexi-hours and gig workforce, leaders must evaluate the risks and opportunities to optimise employee preference and business performance.
Above all, to build a great place to work for all, having a ‘for all’ mindset is indispensable, an absolute necessity. Leaders must constantly reevaluate the needs of their people to be successful and help teams achieve their goals. The key lies in acknowledging differences yet providing consistent experience for the entire workforce. In short, being a ‘for all’ leader is better for business, better for people, and better for the world.
Author: Gurab Kaur Virk, Consultant– Research & Product Development, Great Place to Work® Institute, India
*Additional Reference: International Labour Organization, World Economic Forum: Global Gender Gap Report, Insight Report, March 2021
International Labour Organisation: World Development Indicators - World Bank, July 2021