Diversity in Workforce: Why Women Matter

Ankush Puri, Business Head, Lee Hecht HarrisonFor millenniums, the society had been woven together by diversity. The Vedas extolled and spoke about the role and contribution of women inside the house and outside the house, equally. In sharp contrast to this, the current times throw up reports like the India Development Report by the World Bank, which says that India has one of the lowest female participation in the workforce, ranking 120th among 131 countries.

Another Assocham-Thought Arbitrage Research study says that the female labour force participation in India has dropped by 10 percent in the last decade and stands lowest out of the BRICS countries, with the following rates China (64 percent), Brazil (59 percent), Russia (57 percent), South Africa (45 percent) and India (27 percent).

I am forced to think, what could be the compulsions or disruptions that completely altered this balance? Could it be socio cultural compulsions triggered by frequent plundering and invasions, colonization, or socio cultural compulsions emanating out of domestic (child care, elderly care) and workforce (job satisfaction, stagnancy) factors. I really do not know.

At this stage, let me ask, why do we believe, we need corrective measures? Is it because it makes us look like we are doing the right thing? Is it because somebody else has better ratios? Or is it because we realize how it can impact us and we grasp what we are losing, collectively, if we do not take corrective measures?

Let’s approach this issue on three different planes: Country, organization, and the individual plane.

a. Country Level: At the country level, there is a phenomenal opportunity for India, in the waiting, subject to the right measures by the Government. India is expected to add 12 million to its workforce annually; expected to reach a 500 million workforce by 2022 and have the youngest workforce, at least until 2040. However, what this scenario also brings along is low productivity. Only two percent of the workforce is estimated to be subjected to formal training and only eight percent to informal training. Female child sex ratio in India being 914 to 1000, rural female literacy rate being 58 percent as compared to 78 percent for males and only eight percent women employed in organized sector, you can estimate the opportunity that we are sitting on. While the Government has initiated schemes to encourage education for girls, skilling initiatives and is
working on frameworks of implementation to penetrate the interiors, it is also important that it recognizes and encourages corporates, who are going out of the way to encourage diversity in workforce. It is important to realize that it’s not only the target segment (girls) that needs to be supported, but also a very strong socio-cultural fabric that needs to be recoloured. In 2017, it is interesting to see women pilots, cab drivers, petrol pump operators, other professionals grabbing eye balls for breaking through the stereotyping. While applauding these path breaking professionals and their families for their courage and conviction, we need to put in efforts so we are able to facilitate more and more women to join this group.

The Leadership effectiveness is generally attributed to, and can draw a strong correlation to the style of leadership, communication, adaptability and flexibility w.r.t. hierarchy structures

A global food chain operating in India, in its endeavour to encourage female force participation offers female-only shifts, self-defense classes, mentoring programs and lunch for parents to influence and convince families about the safety of the work place for their girls. While such initiatives may be a need of the respective organization to draw potential human resources and may be occurring in pockets and voluntarily, I’m sure there is scope to put in such frameworks in place through the organized machinery and incentivize organizations for executing the frameworks and the diversity percentage, they achieve.

Productivity improvement coupled with workforce diversity correction is a great opportunity, estimated to add $700 billion plus of additional GDP in 2025, thus adding another 1.4 percent points to GDP growth rate.

b. Organization Level: the delta impact of the leadership effectiveness on the overall organization performance is definitely higher than that of the non leadership roles, not taking away the importance of the non leadership roles. The Leadership effectiveness is generally attributed to and can draw up a strong correlation to the style of leadership, style of communication, adaptability and flexibility w.r.t. hierarchy structures, Integrity, emotional intelligence, collaborating and mentoring ability. Understanding that contexts could be varying and there is a limitation to generalizations, I would still like to mention that various researches conducted indicate female leaders having an edge over their male counterparts and especially with the workforce growing younger. (No, I’m not saying this to appease my 61 percent female workforce at LHH) Yet again, it’s for the corporate to formulate strategies to encourage and accommodate female participation through flexible work hours, virtual office reporting, part time employment, leave structures and effective compensation and benefits to create a balanced, effective workforce without compromising on its Talent objectives.

c. Individual Level: Once again, at the risk of sounding repetitive, I would like to say that I do understand that contexts could be varying and there is a limitation to generalizations, but neuroscientists believe that women beat men when it comes to the levels of oxytocin (cuddle hormone) that makes you feel connected to people. This could be the reason why women tend to care more about coworkers as individuals, not just a support to get their work done and relate to them better than their male counterparts. This coupled with another scientific fact that women are better equipped to express emotions verbally, is like an icing on the cake.

To think of it, a complete and rich talent pool but not yet deployed effectively. It has been predicted that by the year 2034, the majority of top-level leaders will be women, based on their more transformational qualities, while men will revisit their style and adapt it to the changed times.