If a woman can bring me into this Earth, if a woman can bear the labour of raising and guiding me, then certainly a woman can be my boss at work.
Times have indeed changed, and myths have been effaced where other than the ‘exotic’ not much came to mind when thought about Indian women. Indian women are becoming increasingly visible and thriving in the professional and public sphere.
Whether it is Barkha Dutt, who has become an idol for several journalists, Arundhati Roy, a Booker prize winner and a social activist, the industry bigwig and a magnate Indra Nooyi, or Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, who become the wealthiest Indian women after the initial public offering of her company Biocon, worth over $1.1 billion. All herald the advent of Indian professional woman.
During 1987-93, the role of women worldwide underwent a dramatic change. Women today share the podium with men in almost all fields, be it kitchen or office. They have now entrenched themselves as an integral part of the workforce.
After 1991, the increased role of the private sector and spurt in the number of MNCs facilitated a slow but definite rise in the number of women managers and entrepreneurs as against some abysmal figures two decades ago.
MNCs in the previous decade has witnessed quite a volatile environment with numerous challenges calling for the multitalented and experts. Many executives have emerged and are recognised by their expertise, organisational contribution and leadership despite these corporate vicissitudes. India has not by serendipity but by destiny witnessed the proliferation of women who have spurred and fostered growth in the economy and marked themselves as stellar performers. Women have time and again contrived to leave a good mark here.
I will not call it unfortunate rather consequential that we see only a handful of companies headed by women or women at the helm of strategic departments. Till the corner of the new century, women have not been welcomed to hold and glorify the top positions of a slew of corporate houses. Society had its stereotypes and biases against women in management where the male trains had higher perceived value than female traits. Innumerable myths had clouded this society and deemed women in control as anachronistic. Stymied with the straightjacket of envy and as a result male chauvinism, female employees confronted barriers while climbing up the corporate ladder. The perceived notion was that women are ruled by the heart and not head; they are more personal than professional/ the fallacious idea was deduced from their parallel profession, as an employee and as a mother.
Following are some of the myths perceived by society-
- Women switch jobs more frequently than men.
- They are not willing to travel extensively for the organisation.
- They fall apart in a crisis.
- They only work because their economic reasons force them to do so.
- They are too concerned with the social aspects of the jobs and cannot be entrusted with important matters
Furthermore, women have to deal with the complexities of a dual role as working women and mother. Unfortunately, they were thought of as less committed and tenacious. Lastly, they have inner battles as well likely mainly getting scupper by their apathy, which they need to fight and overcome by developing confidence, appropriate skills and attitude.
Male chauvinists, in particular, have denounced them with such shoddy treatment in mentoring, training and development at work, there was bound to be resentment. Fortuitously, our genial women didn’t resort to vandalism but charted their way into the corporate turf, competing for head to head with males. Today globally, women are the 10% senior managers in fortune 500 companies. Having said this, aspirations will never foil, and women are here to stay.
Today the beautiful part of women manager is that she is very good at juggling around tasks. One of their most persuasive skills is her ability at multitasking. Researchers have developed reports which state that women managers see things laterally, intuitively and differently. They can handle more contradictions, can tolerate more and can deliver much more than men. The reality is that women have a different value system, which they bring to the organisation. Management studies on gender initiatives have three findings:
- Some companies like female workers to be ‘boys’, wanting them to play golf, do things like men; they even commend them but sarcastically complement after doing a task efficiently- ‘She is the man’, citing male chauvinism again.
- Some companies recognise that females do the same work but require different incentives.
- Others recognise that women bring them a different approach and attitude to the workplace.
This doesn’t revamp the gender equality inherent in the system, which requires a paradigm shift in its perspective. A qualification of being a male and not a female doesn’t guarantee organisational excellence. Therefore, women in corporate India are aware of the various constraints they work under and are trying to make the best of the bargain. And when they do reach the managerial level, they bring with them the silver lining. For instance, employers today exhibit a preference to employ more women in Human Resources as compared to men and also in the retail and service sector. Hence, they are no longer damsels in distress.
The statistics say that 1/3rd of employees at Indian software companies today is a woman; which were stereotyped as abstract, obsessive and unsuitable for them. NASSCOM puts this figure at 38% higher than their western counterparts. Let me now give you a glimpse of the Indian corporate divas- Vidya Mahan Chhabria, the chairperson of the $2billion Jumbo Group and Naina Lal Kidwai, vice-chairperson and MD of HSBC securities and capital markets, are the two Indian women to feature of the list of the 50 most powerful women in International business by The Fortune magazine. There are several others like Sullaija Firozi Motwani heading Kinetic Group and Mallika Srinivasan leading Chennai- based Tractor Making Co. name TAFE, who are prominent figures in the burgeoning automotive sector and other who successfully manage family-run businesses. Shahnaz Hussain of Shahnaz Group, Renu Karnad of HDFC. Schuana, Alisha and Nadia Chouhan managing Parle Argo are the epitomai of the phenomenal works done by the Indian corporate women. In a country where sex ration is on the decline, where the representation of women in the Parliament has remained at an abysmal low of less than 7% since independence, the emergence of leading ladies, even if it just a few, In India’s corporate sector is hopefully only a precursor for more. In India, women can achieve greatness if their path is clear.
To trounce men in this sector is afar away but not inconceivable for it took men millenniums to dominate this society and now having witnessed women shake this supercilious pillar in the last two decades, it won’t be long before these emerging flairs vociferously exorcise this notion as they are getting empowered.
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