Startups outperform NSE-listed firms in gender inclusivity: Report

The Women in India’s Startup Ecosystem Report (WISER) highlights a significant gender contrast between startups and NSE-listed and other large companies across levels.

Startups outperform NSE-listed firms in gender inclusivity: Report

Monday October 30, 2023,

3 min Read

Startups are leading when it comes to gender inclusivity across organisational levels when compared to NSE-listed and other large corporations, as per Women in India’s Startup Ecosystem Report (WISER).

In the role of Founder/CEO, startups boast of 18% women, a striking contrast to just 5% in NSE-listed companies, the report said. This pattern continues as we move down the hierarchy, with 21% of Director/VP positions filled by women in startups in contrast to 15% in large corporations. Furthermore, in managerial roles, startups take the lead again at 32% while large companies at 21%.

While women's participation in entry-level positions at startups only slightly exceeds that in large corporations (by 1%), it's worth noting that, initially, both men and women begin their careers with nearly equal representation in entry-level and managerial roles. Interestingly, women with five years of experience tend to be preferred over men with more than five years of experience in managerial positions.

However, this trend takes a different turn when examining senior-level roles, such as CXO/SVP and Director/VP positions. As experience and tenure increase, a significant divergence emerges, favouring men in securing more substantial footholds in these senior roles.

For instance, over a decade of experience sees 40% of men achieving CXO/SVP positions, while only 24% of women reach the same level. Similarly, in Director/VP roles, the disparity remains, with 43% of men compared to 34% of women in these positions after more than 10 years of experience.

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Conducted by the Action Covid Taskforce (ACT) for Women in collaboration with McKinsey and The Udaiti Foundation, WISER encompasses insights from 111 founders, 117 CHROs, and 755 startup employees. ACT says this is the first and largest collaborative study of its kind, featuring contributions from over 200 startups.

The report also finds that women-led startups perform better on gender equality. Startups with a woman founder have 2.5X women in senior roles compared to male-founded ventures. And overall, 48% of employees at women-led startups are women, compared to 32% of employees at male-led startups. In R&D, 29% of employees at women-led startups are women compared to 14% of employees at male-led startups.

In 2022, out of the 860,000 people working in startups, only 35% (300,000) were women. However, as we look ahead to 2030, when the total startup workforce is projected to grow to 4.8 million, the gender gap is expected to reduce significantly, with women making up 50% of the workforce.

However, at the macro level, more work needs to be done to level tha gender equality gap. In 2017, there were 6,000 DPIIT-recognised startups, with women leading 10% of them. Fast forward to 2022, where the startup landscape had expanded significantly to 80,000, and the leadership scenario improved but only modestly, with 18% of these startups being led by women.

The gender imbalance persists even among unicorns where out of the 105 in existence in 2022, only 17% are led by women. In the world of funding, out of the $21.9 billion invested in startups between 2022 and September 2023, only 19% of these funds found their way to women-led startups.

(The copy was updated after correcting factual error.)

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta