Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

More Indian women in senior roles, but their elevation to leadership positions still slow: Report

While there is a relatively higher representation of women at the entry levels, a drop occurs as they progress to higher managerial roles or as vice presidents, and other C-suite positions, according to a LinkedIn and The Quantum Hub report

Anubhuti Matta
Published: May 30, 2024 12:33:10 PM IST
Updated: May 30, 2024 12:49:57 PM IST

More Indian women in senior roles, but their elevation to leadership positions still slow: ReportThere has been an increase in the overall representation of females in all seniorities, however, the progress in elevating women to senior leadership positions has been slow, states a new report. Image: Shutterstock

Gender diversity in the workplace is making slow-but-steady progress, according to a new report released on Thursday by LinkedIn and The Quantum Hub, a public policy research firm.

There has been an increase in the overall representation of females in all seniorities—directors, vice presidents, C-suites, and partner positions—rising from 24 percent in 2016 to 26 percent by 2020, and 27 percent in 2024.

However, the progress in elevating women to senior leadership positions has been slow. It increased from 17 percent in 2016 to 19 percent in 2022, but then dipped slightly to 18 percent in 2024. This may self-correct as the year progresses, as per the report.

The analysis is based on self-reported data available on employment-focussed social media platform LinkedIn, collating trends from over a billion members across 41,000 skills; 67 million companies; and 133,000 schools globally.

The report also specifically looked at insights into women in leadership emerging from Indian users and companies. It found that when it comes to hiring women for leadership roles, in 2016, 19 percent were brought on board, and it increased to 25 percent in 2021; however, it dipped by January 2024 to 23 percent.

“This suggests that organisations are actively working towards gender diversity and adopting an inclusive hiring approach,” says Aditi Jha, board member and country head-legal and government affairs, LinkedIn India.

More Indian women in senior roles, but their elevation to leadership positions still slow: Report

The data also suggests that many challenges exist within the pipeline for advancing women’s leadership and gender disparity. While there is a relatively higher representation of women at the entry levels (29 percent), a drop occurs as women progress to higher managerial roles (19 percent), VP roles (17 percent), and C-suite positions (15 percent).

The report highlights initiatives taken to promote women’s leadership such as government interventions like the 2013 Companies Act which mandates the presence of at least one woman director on the board. However, some gaps that hinder women’s progress in the workplace still remain unaddressed. These include the lack of strict enforcement of existing regulatory measures, and limited pool of women to choose from for leadership roles, among a few. Another factor is the self-limiting bias due to social conditioning that dissuades women from pursuing senior positions.

“It is reasonable to expect that such behaviours persist across sectors. Due to social conditioning, women gradually start identifying with expected cultural gender roles creating a dismissive attitude towards themselves,” Jha says. “Despite the environmental factors, women can start identifying peers, build transferable skills, and seek support to overcome biases, foster confidence, and apply for senior roles.”

A skills-first approach expands opportunities for women by 29 percent more than for men, according to the data.

More Indian women in senior roles, but their elevation to leadership positions still slow: Report

Some of the practices being adopted outside India to include more women in the workplace, and in leadership roles, have shown notable results, informs Jha. For instance, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry collaborates with the Tokyo Stock Exchange to introduce Nadeshiko Brands, wherein companies that encourage women’s empowerment and leadership are highlighted as attractive investment opportunities. Argentina provides government subsidies to incentivise organisations to deliver training targeting female employees and ones integrating a gender perspective.

For India, the authors recommend flexible or hybrid work policies as the key to retaining women, particularly at the junior and middle management levels. However, it is also important to offer these policies to both men and women, to ensure equal distribution of unpaid domestic responsibilities, the report adds.

Also read: Meet India's Top Self-Made Women in 2024

A paid paternity leave policy will also encourage women to stay in the workforce. Males are granted a 15-day paternity leave in the government sector, but no such provision is mandated in the private sector. “Reorienting this care responsibility to become more equitable can help encourage more women back to career trajectories,” states the report.

Also, establishing networking and support groups exclusively tailored to women professionals in leadership roles will help provide a valuable platform for them to exchange experiences, extend guidance, and nurture each other’s development.

Lastly, providing extra support to women entering the workforce after career breaks due to personal care responsibilities will help in minimising the gender gap in leadership roles. “This can also encourage more women to return to the formal workforce post-parenthood, in particular,” Jha says.