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Gender diversity initiatives are failing, as most women employees confessed to not really feeling any change

Binjal Shah
1st Mar 2018
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Even as various organisations are falling in line pledging themselves to the cause of gender diversity and inclusivity, a BCG study has found that these initiatives have not really borne substantial results as of now.

“Women in India Inc. begin trailing their men counterparts early and continue to lose ground with every step. Both in terms of money (the gender pay gap) and in terms of participation, the country still has a long way to go,” states the report outlining the findings of the new Boston Consulting Group study titled ‘From Intention to Impact.’ They arrived at this conclusion after nearly two-thirds of the women confessed that they haven’t really felt the impact or benefits of the various gender equality initiatives that their company is undertaking.

Having surveyed 20 companies spanning multiple sectors, the very aim of the report was to “identify the reasons behind discrepancies between a large number of initiatives being taken, and their minimal tangible impact.” “Companies are investing time, energy and money in diversity initiatives, but progress is slow and results woefully short of expectations. Diversity initiatives at Indian corporations have yet to show significant impact on the ground,” said Priyanka Aggarwal, Partner at BCG and the leader of the Women@BCG initiative in India, according to this report on Consultancy.in.

They studied the companies’ policies and initiatives spanning five categories, namely recruitment, retention, advancement, leadership and culture. In that regard, they gathered that while 60% of the women felt that their companies were indeed serious about the initiatives, only 29% claimed to have actually been touched or uplifted by any of them.

It is known that the ratio of men and women is especially skewed when it comes to higher echelons of a company, thus, implying that most companies are struggling with the ‘advancement’ of women from the lower rungs to the higher ones. While overall, it was found that only 27 percent of the positions were filled by women, the numbers are different when one zooms into each level. At the entry-level, 30 percent of all positions were seen to be filled by women, but this figure fell sharply 17 percent when it came to the female occupancy in senior management positions. The sightings get even rarer, in top-level management and the C-suite – as only 11% of the spots have women patrons.

Busting a long-standing myth, the study found that men and women are equally ambitious, as 86% and 87 percent respectively have aspirations to climb the ladders within their companies. This trend clearly points to the existence of a glass ceiling. And the women surveyed noted, that this glass ceiling manifests in the following forms - 27 percent opined that the commitment to diversity from senior leadership was lacking, 28% attributed it to weak retention policies, and 22 percent stated that company’s culture is basically not free stereotypes and biases. The study however, also highlighted the lack of awareness or mindfulness among men, about the existence of such obstacles, as only 12 percent, 11 percent, and nine percent of the men agreeing that the above deterrents exist.

The study also determined that maybe, the company’s approach to solving the problem of inclusion was all wrong. 36 percent of the women surveyed picked the lack of nuanced advancement opportunities as the biggest deterrent – but only 40 percent of the companies actually had advancement policies or interventions in place. Conversely, while 95 percent of the companies have programs to sensitise their employees about biases and stereotypes, only 22 percent of the women saw this as the biggest obstacle

Outlining key gaps, their findings state that "one-off measures such as training programs, networking events, and surveys, while extremely common, are less effective in addressing the core issues." "On the other hand, interventions such as part-time work models and focusing on ‘moments of truth’, which are rarely implemented by companies, are perceived as extremely elective by women. Engage men in the diversity programs and make them champions of gender diversity. It is important to make policies as gender neutral as possible so that women do not feel singled out," reads an excerpt.

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