According to a report published in World Economic forum, only 9% of women hold the post of CEO’s while the representation of women in board level is only 28% across all industries. The figures stated above are worse in sectors like energy, basic infrastructure and information and communication technology.
While a fair share of women are seen at entry level jobs but the representation at mid level and senior level roles shrink significantly. The reasons are manifold from women dropping the workforce due to societal pressures to the unconscious bias present in the minds of employers.
Not everything is gloomy, top companies have taken initiatives to increase women participation in the workforce. ICICI bank for example provides iwork@home – that is, work from home during maternity leave and this comes with face recognition feature to make sure that the woman is only working. The other benefit it provides is that when women travel by train for overnight journeys with their children (less than 3 yr old) the expenses of the women, the child and a care taker is borne by the bank.
On a similar note, many companies have increased the duration of maternity leaves provided to women; Deloitte for example gives fully paid maternity leave for 26 weeks.
However, the important question is: “can we expect increased women participation just by increasing the duration of maternity leave?”
The answer is blatant no. There are a lot of other issues due to which low participation of women is observed. For example women face more incivility at work than men. So the companies need to take other initiatives too.
Some of the initiatives suggested are:
Raising a child is not only the work of women. Men also have a role. Companies should also provide fully paid paternity leave. In Sweden 85% of fathers take paternity leave and get questioned if they don’t. Sweden has a policy of giving two months fully paid paternity leave.
Work allocated during maternity leave
The nature of work assigned for the work from home facility during maternity break should not be of simple data entry but projects which have an important impact on the company’s performance.
Training and development:
The skills required in the dynamic industry of today the skills required change, this comes as obstacle when women want to rejoin work after maternity leave. Thus, companies should develop training programs for employees to equip them with the required skills.
In this a system, a working or a retired industry expert from within the company could guide a women and give keen insights on what the women needs to do and how the tasks needs to be done so that it will help a woman get promotion and move up the corporate ladder.
Uni-directional mentorship often portrays women as ill-prepared for leadership roles, cross-gender reciprocal mentorship programs can be introduced, where both the mentor and the mentee can learn about each other’s unique experiences and enhance their knowledge base, thus benefiting both.
Removal of unconscious bias
In the workplace often an unconscious bias exists like if woman is promoted to a position whether she will be able to handle the responsibilities or whether her objectives are well aligned with the authority the position of responsibility gives. These sorts of unconscious bias needs to be removed, proper programs should be developed. PWC for example has a bias awareness training program to help understand the nature of bias and demonstrate techniques to control personal bias in the workplace when, for example, assessing colleagues for promotion or performance.
Fair assignment of work
Women in workplace are often assigned works which do not have much important bearing on the company’s performance. In other words they are given support works which are necessary to keep the organisation working but those works do not get much recognition within the organisation and are not considered when determining promotion. So a fair assignment of the so called glamour-work need to be assigned to women to help them get promotion.
Work for a start-up
Women working in a start-up have lower barriers to overcome and can reach senior level positions within a short-time. Meg Whitman had joined as CEO of eBay when it was only three year old.
Women networking events
Companies can also organize women networking events to provide a platform where women can meet senior level women executive, who will enable them to build connections and also help them in the long run.