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80 % of Women Aspire for Top Jobs in India and are ‘Willing to Go the Extra Mile’ Compared to 52% in the United States finds a New Research

December 7, 2010 - New Delhi, Delhi, India

o Eldercare: a greater challenge than childcare with 70% of women catering to it
o Powerful gender bias reveals 45% of women in India are treated unfairly in the workplace
o Safety concerns affect 52% of women in India commuting to their jobs
o 73% experience societal disapproval of travelling alone for business

A recent study conducted by Centre for Work Life Policy, a nonprofit think tank based in New York titled, “The Battle of Female Talent in India’’, reveals that the widespread nature of ambition and aspiration among Indian women is extraordinary with a whopping 80% compared to 52% in the United States. The impressive levels of aspiration amongst Indian women have been fueled by the country’s rapid economic growth that has brought about a shift in the social status of women. However, women in India face unique cultural and societal challenges that derail their aspirations and conspire to force women to either settle for dead-end jobs or leave the workforce. The research establishes that the rich talent pool of college-educated aspiring women, holds the key to the cut-throat war for high-echelon talent that multinationals experience as they pin their growth prospects on dynamic fast-growing economies like India.

Booz & Company is one of the key sponsors of the Study. Speaking on the revelations of the survey, Jai Sinha, Managing Director & Partner, Booz & Company India said, “Our research shows that fewer than 30% of Indian women work and only 10% between the ages of 18-23 are enrolled in higher education. Yet in 2009, women represented 11% of CEOs, almost 4 times the 3% figure for Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies in the US and UK respectively. Women hold the answer to the acute talent crunch, the top constraint to India's growth potential.”

The research, sponsored Bloomberg LP, Booz & Company, Intel, Pfizer, Siemens AG, Goldman Sachs and Interpublic Group, emphasized on several unique roadblocks to professional success for Indian women, which are enumerated below:

Eldercare: The pull which does loom large in the lives of many women in India is eldercare. Professional women in India are less encumbered than women elsewhere in childcare issues, since notion of filial piety underpin the cultural value system and many grandparents act as active care givers. Furthermore, what acts as a challenge in India is the ‘daughterly guilt’ which is greater than ‘maternal guilt’ and caters to 70% of the Indian women having eldercare responsibilities. In India, mostly adult women live with their parents or in-laws and also assist them financially. It is a huge stigma in India to hire professional help for eldercare or complete outsourcing like sending them to a home. Thus the eldercare burden on society in general and women in particular is a ticking time bomb.

Workplace Gender Bias: More than half of educated women in India experience a triple whammy of gender, ethnicity and culture attitudes creating a bias in the workplace severe enough to make them consider scaling back their career goals or quitting altogether with 45% of Indian women believing they are treated unfairly in the work place. Indian traditions place great value on women’s submissiveness and reticence, attributes which serve high-performing women poorly at work. Women felt crippled by this cultural bind, struggling to achieve self-confidence and the ability to demonstrate authority. Not being able ‘to be yourself at work’ is deeply alienating. Compounded by the fact that promotions are seen as based on ‘an ability to fit in’ rather than ‘an ability to produce results,’ many talented women feel unwelcome in the workplace.

Safety Concerns: Safety concerns are a harsh reality for professional women in India. Besides social disapproval as one of the major hindrance for women travelling alone in the Indian society, another major factor which influences 52% of the survey respondents is the feel of being unsafe while commuting to and from work. With crime rates escalating in an alarming degree, the rate of rape, kidnapping, abduction etc., strongly influence women’s preferences about the type of career to pursue.

Travel: Contrary to the almost-universal assumption that female professionals in emerging markets don’t want to travel, nearly 80% of women in India believe that international assignments are critical to their career progression. However despite their preferences women in India face cultural constraints which limit women’s mobility with 73% experiencing family and societal disapproval of traveling alone for business. This leads to women concentrating on careers with local responsibilities, such as medicine, law, hotel administration etc., which are city-based and require minimal travel.

Extreme Hours: While extreme jobs are very much the norm among highly qualified and ambitious women worldwide, the average workweek for employees of MNCs in India is especially onerous. On an average Indian women at multinational companies work 58 hours in a week. Furthermore the demands of work have intensified over the last few years luring them from the corporate to the public sector for a better work-life balance.

In order to maximize their investment in the growing talent pool of professional women, multinational companies have come to the forefront to understand how the needs of Indian women are different from their western counterparts and how to leapfrog these barriers.

DeAnne Aguirre,SVP & Partner, Booz & Company, USA says, "Winning the war for female talent in India requires commitment. First, become a magnet for smart, driven women through an intellectually challenging, growth-oriented, equitable, and supportive workplace. Second, sustain female ambition through the cultural tug-of-war by promoting networks that help build ties among them and provide the organizational know-how to succeed. Finally, provide the flexibility to deal with family-related pulls and work-related pushes through creative solutions based on local knowledge."

As a step forward, multinationals from Google to Goldman Sachs are creating processes and practices that enable women in India to compete and flourish at their full potential. Furthermore, included in the report are 21 innovative programs to help female talent flourish that were developed by companies in India including: Google, Infosys, ICIC Bank, GE, Tata, Goldman Sachs, Ernst & Young, HSBC, and Pfizer.

Laying the foundations for the full realization of female talent in India, essential agenda and actions are taken by most of the reputed multinational companies which are as follows:

• The Deutsche Bank India Diversity Council introduced a maternity coaching program for new mothers and their managers.
• Women of Wipro began sponsoring on-site vacation camps for employees’ children across the country. The camps boost productivity for mothers who face long daily commutes and a dearth of reasonable childcare options during the long spring school holidays.
• Boehringer Ingelheim will pay for a woman to bring her mother along on a foreign assignment to respect her eldercare needs.
• Google offers complementary shared cabs for all of its 1,200-plus workers in India.
• Infosys, in the year 2003, launched the Infosys Women’s Inclusivity Network to create a gender sensitive and inclusive work environment to address work-life balance for the women employees. In 2008, they have started an exclusive mentoring program called Infosys Women’s Inclusivity Initiative’s Mentoring program to cater to the developmental needs of the women.
• Pfizer has introduced the “Diva Group” for welfare of women and it caters to their aspirations and helps them in networking.
• Intel empowers their female work force by entrusting them in leadership roles.
• Interpublic group endorses ‘Equal & Opposite’ opportunity for all, which stands for gender balance in the workplace.
• Goldman Sachs has introduced the innovative “mobility exchange program”, which encourages career mobility within and across the businesses.
• Siemens AG has introduced many career strategy initiatives that offer women promising prospects for future careers in cutting-edge specialties and excellent opportunities for advancement.

Source: Business Wire India


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