Women in Corporate Ladder: Understanding the Dwindling Numbers

Oct 30, 2017 11:13 IST
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Although gender inequality gradually concerns many companies, research from McKinsey and shows few organizations have programs in place that truly address the issue. Unless change picks up, it will take more than a century for men and women to be represented equally in the C-suite.


This problem of inequality in representation does not pertain only to C-suites but rather starts at the very first promotion. The statistics revealed that the pipeline widens for men while it reduces for women due to the gradual reduction of promotion for women. The chief disparity remains at the managerial level.

On average, women are promoted at a lower rate than men, entry-level women are 18 percent less likely to be promoted than their male peers.

From the outset, fewer women than men are hired at the entry-level, despite women being 57 percent of recent college graduates. At every subsequent step, the representation of women further declines. As a result, one in five C-suite leaders is a woman. Besides, compared with the modest gains women made in prior years, there are signs this year that women’s progress may be stalling.


In India, women make for only 27% of the total workforce in the industry. According to a report by hiring firm Belong, the gender ratio gets further skewed at senior levels.

Only 7% of women reach the C-suite at Indian IT companies, the report said.

One of the misconceptions while understanding the rate of pipeline in the corporate sector, we tend to misunderstand that the pipeline is narrowed for women as they quit their jobs for family and motherhood while the reports talk about the narrowed pipeline in context with the promotion. While women dropping off is also another reason, it is not the primary one.


Shalini Kamath, Founder, Shalini Kamath & Associates, spoke about the clash of career and personal life for women during their initial period at work. “Usually once a woman starts working, there is a perception that it’s also time for to get married. It is considered as one of the milestones in her lives and this crosses her path of career. Due to various societal pressures and norms, women do get married and due to age factor, are expected to deliver a child soon.

It gets cumbersome to work after having a child considering how in our society it is a mother’s duty to take care of the child. This primarily is one of the reasons why women do not work or drop out after some time.

This can be fixed with flexible policies for work for women but this does not particularly happen as very strong biases exist at home as well as at work. Even after a comeback, the usually biases with regard to promotion, pay scale and so forth continues wherein it becomes quite tedious for women to excel”, says Kamath.


While it is true that these existing societal norms have been suppressing women, and have eventually led to women to drop out of work, but the statistics reveal otherwise. In the global scenario, the outcome was such that, women are leaving their companies at similar rates as men. Women and men also have similar intentions to stay in the workforce. Roughly 60 percent of all employees plan to remain at their companies for five or more years. Moreover, among those who are planning to leave, about 80 percent intend to find a job elsewhere and remain in the workforce.

Notably, just as many men as women say they’ll leave to focus on family, and the number of both genders is remarkably low:  two percent or less.

If the percentage of women dropping out of work is just two percent, then why aren’t they getting promoted is a question that needs to be addressed.


Rajeshwari Ramachandra, Freelance Human Resource consultant, talks about this issue from a different perspective. She believes that if we generalise situations and end up having quotas for women in the corporate world, it’s going to become unfair for the men.

“I don’t necessarily think that promotions have anything to do with gender bias. It’s purely based on merit and performance. I’ve seen women getting promoted constantly as they prioritized their career. The problem with us is that we want to be perfect in every front and this with time has become overbearing on us. We have placed unreasonable demands on our heads which are quite not necessary.

It’s ok, if we cannot provide time to our children’s homework if we don’t then the men will. It’s only because we go in the forefront and complicate things, we are not able to strive in a single path. Women take a break and cannot expect to be promoted immediately after their transition as during that gap many would have outshined. If at all women think that they are not getting paid back for their hard work, one can definitely voice it and put forward their concerns. The corporate space is that liberal.


While there undeniably certain social evils that put women down, there are definitely ways in which we can overcome them.

One of the examples of Indra Nooyi is that she is said to have mentioned to her receptionist as to how to respond if her children call, considering how busy she is. This is where balance and priority need to be struck. Also, career is for a span for four decades and if we definitely set long-term goals other than the short-term, things are going to become better”, says Ms Rajeshwari.

While there are various perspectives on this issue, what we all need to comprehend is that efforts to achieve equality benefit us all. When the most talented people can rise to the top, regardless of who they are and where they’re from, we all end up winning.


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Also Read: Sweden to Organise Crowd-funded Women-only “Statement Festival”

Reshma Ganeshbabu is an intern with SheThePeople.TV. The views expressed in this column are the author’s own.

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