Parameters to assess gender equity practices in Indian companies

gender equity The World Economic Forum (WEF) recently conducted a first-ever study covering the world’s largest employers in 20 countries and benchmarked them against gender equality policies. The results published in WEF’s “Corporate Gender Gap Report 2010” revealed that India has the lowest percentage of women employees (23 percent). This figure indicates that corporate India still has a long way to go in improving its gender equity standards. (1)

However, there are some companies leading from the front in terms of gender equity in India. NASSCOM has instituted “Gender Inclusivity Awards” for companies that promote women leadership and development. Infosys Technologies has been one of the eminent winners of this award in recent years. In 2009, companies like IBM Daksh, Hytech Professionals India Ltd. and Integra Software Services (P) Ltd. were awarded by NASSCOM. IBM India Pvt. Ltd. also won this award in the “Best Childcare Services” category. (2)  

The primary parameter to assess corporate gender equity is to look at the percentage of women employees working in a particular firm. In India, this figure is still abysmally low as indicated by the WEF survey. This figure is in a way real indicator of how far a company is actively pursuing a gender neutral hiring process across various work categories and positions.

In addition to the gross percentage of women employees, it is equally important to assess a company’s policy on women’s promotion to higher ranking positions. This can be determined by analyzing the company’s employee data to see what percentage of women employees are working at the lower level or front desk jobs, what percentage of women employees are in the junior and middle management jobs, and what percentage of women employees occupy the top management and directorial positions in the company.

A company’s policy on women employee benefits such as transport facilities, maternity leave, health insurance, childcare facilities and support for children’s education is another indicator of a gender-neutral approach. These are specific incentives that are directed at women’s welfare within an organization. Some Indian companies, especially in the IT, Pharma and Manufacturing sectors are leading the way in this regard. Such companies are buying Maternity Insurance coverage for their women employees, which is a recent trend that shows an increased consciousness towards the women employees in the organization. (3)

Another key benchmark to judge corporate gender equity lies in a company’s explicit and vigorous policy against sexual harassment and women’s safety. This is an area where women workers have suffered exploitation for a long time in countries like India. It requires organizational sensitivity to deal with such issues with effectiveness at the ground level, despite the constitutional laws against such exploitation.

“Forum for Women in Leadership,” a forum promoting best corporate practices for women at the workplace conducted a quick poll which found Indian companies severely lacking with regard to implementation of best practices. Even many high-growth companies and ‘navratna’ public sector organizations lack in their orientation towards gender equity at the place of work. (4)

There is an urgent need for introspection on part of corporate India to assess their internal company culture and practices on the basis of these parameters, and take corrective measures where necessary. At the same time, there must be more recognition from the government and social agencies for the organizations that are taking an initiative and conscious steps to follow best gender equity practices at the workplace.


- Vikas Vij (views expressed in the article are that of the author)







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