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"We need to identify talent and celebrate each stage of women leadership - It is time to shift the dialogue from simply "Minding the Gap" to identifying the gap itself." - Smriti Irani
Mar 04, 2024

“We need to identify talent and celebrate each stage of women leadership - It is time to shift the dialogue from simply "Minding the Gap" to identifying the gap itself.” - Smt Smriti Irani, Minister of Women, Child Development and Minority Affairs

Smt. Smriti Irani, Minister of Women, Child Development and Minority Affairs, expressed that there is widespread acknowledgement and pronouncement for a need for corporates to bridge the gender gap that women leaders face when they reach the stage of middle management. She was speaking at the session ‘Women Leadership in India Inc.’ organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) in partnership with Karmannya Counsel and Fortune India. Launching the whitepaper on Enhancing Women Leadership in India which centers on Fortune 500 companies across 17 sectors, she emphasized that the call for restructuring is apparent. Organizations are actively dismantling barriers and fostering a more inclusive and equitable professional landscape, as highlighted in the document. The research delves into the current state of women leadership in corporate India. Through a series of roundtables and surveys that were conducted, the research examined the current initiatives that are being taken to promote women to enter, stay and grow within the workspace, the challenges thereof, and the industry perspectives and suggestions around the same. The research was supported by the Ministry of Women & Child Development and SPJIMR, Mumbai.

Some solutions presented in the whitepaper include - incentives and ranking of companies, enhanced reporting and disclosures on diversity, increased representation of women on Boards, sponsorship/allyship in senior leadership roles, right ecosystem to expand base of the pyramid, care infrastructure and mandates for gender specific hiring.

The Honorable Minister further shared that “we need to be equally celebratory of women in their 40s who aspire to embark on entrepreneurial ventures. While we address issues like facilitating the return of women after maternity leave and ensuring their continued productivity post-corporate experiences, it is imperative to recognize the abundance of credit and market support available today for talented women. Such women can leverage their corporate expertise to initiate new businesses and seamlessly integrate into the supply chain. The discourse needs to broaden to encompass and support women across various professional trajectories, including those aiming to carve their paths as entrepreneurs”.

Mr Sanjiv Puri, President Designate, Confederation of Indian Industry and Chairman & Managing Director, ITC Limited expressed, that “there is a compelling merit and a robust business case for increasing the involvement of women in the corporate sphere. Women bring distinctive qualities and perspectives to the table, enriching the enterprise with their unique contributions. Acknowledging the inherent differences between women and men is crucial, and these distinctions should be accepted for what they are, without being scrutinized through any other lens. Advocating for a systematic approach to progress based on merit is key. By doing so, women can play a more substantial and impactful role in the professional landscape over time. These three straightforward messages encapsulate the essence of fostering gender diversity and inclusion within the corporate realm”.

In her remarks, Ms Debjani Ghosh, President, NASSCOM said that she believes it is crucial to increasingly associate women in top positions with higher profits and the greater sustainability of businesses than we currently do. She expressed that “there is a growing understanding at the highest levels of the industry, leading to significant changes in hiring practices. Currently, we have a 52 per cent representation, but we must ensure addressing the super leaky pipeline, as fixing it remains a challenge. In the tech industry, there has been progress, and we recognize that there is a business case for hiring women who are inherently more innovative and solution oriented”.

Ms Preetha Reddy, Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospital Group emphasized that “instead of merely requesting tax benefits, can we consider incentivizing companies that employ women by offering a 1% reduction in the loan component. This approach actively encourages and supports women in the workforce. Shifting the focus to women on boards, it is essential to recognize that they should not merely be present but acknowledged for their substantial contributions”.

About Confederation of Indian Industry

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) works to create and sustain an environment conducive to the development of India, partnering Industry, Government and civil society, through advisory and consultative processes.

For more than 125 years, CII has been engaged in shaping India’s development journey and works proactively on transforming Indian Industry’s engagement in national development. With its extensive network across the country and the world, CII serves as a reference point for Indian industry and the international business community.

As India strategizes for the next 25 years to India@100, Indian industry must scale the competitiveness ladder to drive growth. CII, with the Theme for 2023-24 as ‘Towards a Competitive and Sustainable India@100: Growth, Inclusiveness, Globalisation, Building Trust’ has prioritized 6 action themes that will catalyze the journey of the country towards the vision of India@100.


4 March 2024

New Delhi

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