Absence of women in the top-level management became the hot topic, at the seminar on ‘Women in India: Success Stories’ organised by the Indo French Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Surana and Surana International Attorneys, in Chennai recently.
Women from across industries — political leaders, diplomats and social activists and even those from film fraternity came up to discuss that why in spite of the almost equal participation of women at the entry levels, the number declined to a trickle, as one went up the ladder.
Consul General of the US Consulate General in Chennai, Jennifer McIntyre who was the chief guest at the event recalled, how in her earliest experiences in Chennai with women entrepreneurs, she heard about the need for more women at the corporate boards. Quoting studies she pointed out how having the presence of women in the top management increases the prosperity of the company. But in spite of these the numbers seem to be low in the top management levels.
The panelists pointed out that the break that women have to take in their careers, be it when it comes to child bearing or due to other reasons for the family, delays the progress in their careers. “Women seem to drop by the wayside when one moves up the career graph,” said Kosturi Ghosh, Partner at Law firm Trilegal. She pointed out her own case where in spite of actually taking off only for six months during her child bearing, the break became a major challenge when it came to bouncing back especially owing to the heavy working hours and extended timings. “I have seen many talented women break of their career graph at this point, never to come back,” she pointed out.
Some of the panelists also pointed out that as one rises up from the mid-level management establishments, becomes more and more masculine. “The competitive and leadership structures at the higher levels are more masculine mainly because out of the fact that more and more of the positions held here are by men and they prefer people of their type,” said Indubala Ashok, Global head, Foreign Language Initiatives at TCS. She called for a gender audit in companies, regarding the attrition rates of women, the number of women in interviews, various boards etc.
Actor Goutami Thadimala said that in industries like the film industry, women have no rights. “The only women who have got the respect in the industry have fought tooth and nail for it,” she pointed out. Ex-MLA Bader Sayeed pointed out that those women need to be given a push to come out and take up a career. “It is not about charity or CSR activities. There is a lot of networking that needs to be provided,” she said.
The panelists also called for more flexibility and incentives to remain at work for both men and women in organisations.