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India’s trends in women workforce

Sep 12, 2011

The latest Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia 2011 report by Community Business says that despite rapid economic growth, Indian women are denied senior level jobs .The report also reveals that India experiences maximum number of women dropouts from the total work force of the country.

Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia 2011

Published by: Community Business

As compared to other parts of the world, the representation of women in the workplace in Asia declines sharply with seniority and this applies across industry, reveals Gender Diversity Benchmark for Asia 2011 report by Community Business.

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While childcare and family responsibilities are assumed to be the primary derailers of women's careers around the world, the reality in Asia is found to be more complicated. Family ties are strong and women in Asia often enjoy child care support from their parents or in-laws. However, the flip side of this strong family tie, especially for women, is the responsibility of eldercare.

GDBA 2011 is comprises of two parts: a quantitative study and a qualitative study. Through the compilation of data, it examines the representation of women at junior, middle and senior levels of 21 Participating Companies in six key geographies in Asia, including: China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore. Through a series of interviews, it also provides the perspectives of high potential Asian women working in multinational companies in Asia to help understand the issues they face and what more can be done to help women in Asia attain leadership positions.

In India and China in particular, the guilt working women in Asia feel towards their elders, ‘daughterly guilt’, can outweigh maternal guilt. Work pressures for Asian women were also found to be different from those in the West in a number of ways. These include the strong cultural disapproval in relation to travel, gender biases in the Asian workplace as well as exclusion from informal social activities.

In line with international studies, the data gathered through this extensive study show that whilst women may be generally well represented in the total workforce and at junior levels in many companies across Asia, they are poorly represented at more senior levels. The interviews with high potential Asian women point to some of the reasons for this and to where some of the challenges for women in Asia lie.

The representation of women in the total workforce of the Participating Companies is close to or above the female national labour force participation rates in all countries - except Japan. The representation of women is highest at the junior level and lowest at the senior level across all countries. This is consistent with many other gender studies, both regionally and internationally. A comparison of data from the GDBA 2009 and GDBA 2011 studies indicates that the overall percentages of women working in the Participating Companies are similar at all levels with a noticeable increase only for China.

Looking at the total workforce, the highest percentages of women are employed in China, followed closely by Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore. The lowest percentages of females are employed in India, with Japan the second lowest. Malaysia performs best in terms of the representation of women at senior positions (27.57%) and it is the only country where the Participating Companies outperform the national female labour force in their total workforce, junior and middle level positions.

India-the worst performer

India is consistently the worst performer in terms of the representation of women in the total workforce, junior and middle level positions. It performs only slightly better than Japan at senior level positions. In terms of middle level positions, the best performer is Hong Kong and the worst performer is India.

The average percentage drop from junior to middle level positions is 29.06% with India (48.07%) having the most significant drop at this level. In terms of senior level positions, the best performer is Malaysia and the worst performer is Japan. The average percentage drop from middle to senior level positions is 48.04% with Japan (70.24%) having the most significant drop at this level.

India has the lowest national female labour force and the largest leak in the pipeline takes place early on in a woman’s career - from junior to middle level positions. This means the leaking pipeline in India is in fact more severe than in the other geographies as the pool of women is much diminished at an earlier stage. High potential woman are concerned about the personal sacrifices they may be making in terms of possibly foregoing having children for their career and also highlighted the role of their parents in their decision-making.

The report concludes that the issues of greatest concern are related to work-family balance. Companies are encouraged to take a more holistic and creative approach to the career trajectories of their women employees - with a focus on enabling them to fulfill their professional and personal responsibilities at different stages in their life and career. Only then will women be no longer required to make tough choices that force many to settle for less challenging roles or opt out of the workforce altogether.

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