A concept B-schools have been selling for more than three years has finally been bought by Indian companies: More women managers at senior positions.
Various companies, including Vodafone India and Mahindra and Mahindra, have begun focussing on getting more women at senior leadership positions.
“We are out in the market recruiting senior women talent. Gender diversity is a focus for us. We are working through availability, location and choice of role aspects,” said Ashok Ramchandran, director (human resources), Vodafone India.
Ramachandran adds women at the top of various management levels bring plurality, different thinking, different focus areas and leadership styles and values. So, while Vodafone strives to hire from outside, a major task at hand is also to build talent within the company.
Currently, women in senior management positions at Vodafone India form six per cent of the work force. The company plans to raise the number to 15 per cent in two years.
At automotive major Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M), a 50: 50 gender ratio is being considered. “A diverse work force is important, as harnessing the potential of diversity produces powerful business results, enables deeper discussions among work-teams and produces richer results,” said Rajeev Dubey, president (group HR, corporate services and after market), M&M.
Head-hunters reckon it is the services sector that has been very active in hiring more women for senior positions. “There are more women in the labour market, and more females pursuing higher education. So, there are more women contenders for senior posts. However, this kind of participation is absent in sectors like oil & gas and manufacturing,” said E Balaji, managing director and chief executive, Randstad India.
Business schools have not only been preaching this concept, but practicing it as well.
For instance, at the Indian School of Business (ISB), the percentage of women in the management programme rose from 25 per cent to 29 per cent in the last five years. The batch of 2012 had 167 women students, accounting for 29 per cent of the batch.
“Women today have a lot more opportunities than in the past. There is increasing acceptance in different quarters about their abilities, and the value they bring to the work force,” said Ajit Rangnekar, Dean, ISB. He adds while this percentage is high compared to other Indian B-schools, it falls short of the figures in global B-schools such as Wharton (45 per cent) and Harvard (39 per cent).
“Currently, our workplace reflects a healthy diversity, with almost 50 per cent women in the staff. We must just replicate this in our classrooms, too,” he said.
At the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode (IIM-K), director Debashis Chatterjee has been saying women make better managers and they have learnt to be more competent in a diverse set of skills and attitudes. The institute has been increasingly emphasising on more women students in the campus. In the first post-graduate programme at IIM-K in 1999, there was only one woman student in a batch of 42.Consequent to the changes in the institute’s admission policy, the 2013 batch has 36 per cent women.
In its International Business Report, global accountancy firm Grant Thornton had recently said businesses in India had the least number of women in senior management (14 per cent), compared with the global average of 21 per cent. It added economies such as India, Japan and Mexico had low female economic activity rates, with the India’s proportion of female adults in the labour force at 33 per cent.