How regressive attitudes towards gender inclusion are deeply entrenched in corporate spaces

In the decade between 2010 and 2020, India has witnessed the emergence of gender diversity & inclusion of women as a prominent leadership imperative, or so it seemed.

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Organisations set ambitious gender ratio targets that focus on the “diversity” part of the equation, but there is little real progress, since the “inclusion” part is faltering.
Corporate India’s gender diversity agenda largely remains an empty promise and an unfinished task as its managers are neither sensitised nor equipped to drive it. Male managers do not look at gender diversity as a business case and organisations are not doing enough to push them, reveals a survey of 1,067 managers across different companies and sectors carried out by diversity and inclusion consulting firm Avtar.

Findings of the survey — Voices of Men: Gender Inclusion in Corporate India from the Majority’s Perspective — shared exclusively with ET Magazine show that eight out of 10 managers believe that providing women with additional support like flexible working can be done only if they are high performers while half of them say it is better that women take a career break when work-life integration becomes challenging.

What Numbers Say

48% Share of females in India’s population- Source: Census 2011
49% Enrolled university graduates are women- Source: All India Survey on Higher Education 2017-18
23% Female labour force participation rate in India- Source: Periodic Labour Force Survey 2017-18
112 India’s rank in gender gap across several indices- Source: Gender Gap Report 2020, World Economic Forum


In the decade between 2010 and 2020, India has witnessed the emergence of gender diversity & inclusion of women as a prominent leadership imperative, or so it seemed.

“As the implementation of this people strategy cascades down the hierarchy, it appears to lose intent, as mid-level managers do not share the same view as their bosses.

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While the social justice angle might inspire some to accept the relevance of diversity & inclusion, the majority view it as yet another burden to be shouldered,” says Avtar founder Saundarya Rajesh.

WHAT MANAGERS SAY
49% say choosing a male over an equally meritorious female candidate is better strategy

WHY IT’S A PROBLEM
Reflects bias, scepticism and apprehension around hiring women

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WHAT MANAGERS SAY
54% say women should take career break when work-life integration turns challenging

WHY IT’S A PROBLEM
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Shows managerial biases and calls for greater sensitisation

WHAT MANAGERS SAY
49% say managing teams with women is challenging

WHY IT’S A PROBLEM
Managers need greater clarity on what gender diversity can lead teams to

WHAT MANAGERS SAY
83% say only high performing women should get additional support like flexible working hours

WHY IT’S A PROBLEM
Instead of looking for return on investment, managers need to know that employee performance is often an outcome of enablement, empowerment and engagement

WHAT MANAGERS SAY
55% say more women in workforce is important but not at the cost of results

WHY IT’S A PROBLEM
Companies have diversity targets but are not empowering managers to understand the business case

WHAT MANAGERS SAY
38% do not agree and 34% are apprehensive that gender diverse teams can assure success in a VUCA* world
Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous

WHY IT’S A PROBLEM
Companies yet to create enough awareness
among managers that inclusion can
become a successful strategy

WHAT MANAGERS SAY
21% say company policies to hire and promote women are created without business performance in mind

WHY IT’S A PROBLEM
Diversity is merely an HR prerogative and hiring more women is not a business agenda

Organisations set ambitious gender ratio targets that focus on the “diversity” part of the equation, but there is little real progress, since the “inclusion” part is faltering.

“Managers who act as the bridge between the organisation and employees in translating the diversity and thought into reality are the most crucial elements of the mix. It is in their buy-in, their intentionality that the virtuous cycle of diversity-productivity discretionary effort-talent magnet gets kickstarted,” says Rajesh.
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