Decline in Women’s Leadership Representation

Decline in Women’s Leadership Representation


Women’s advancement to senior leadership roles has been sluggish, increasing by only one percentage point every four years, with a rise from 18.8% in 2016 to 25.2% in 2021, followed by a decline.

GS-02 (Gender)

Key Highlights

  • Overall Workforce Representation: Women’s participation in the workforce grew from 23.9% in 2016 to 27.3% in 2022 but slightly decreased to 26.8% by January 2024.
  • Sector-Specific Disparities:
    • Lowest representation (11%-14% women in leadership): oil, gas, mining, construction, utilities, wholesale, manufacturing, transportation, real estate.
    • Moderate representation (15%-20% women in senior roles): Accommodation and food services, financial services, retail, technology, media.
    • Highest representation (22%-30% women in senior roles): Administrative and support services, healthcare, consumer services, government administration, education, with education sector leading at 30%.
  • Structural Barriers: Women face ongoing bias, societal norms, and structural hurdles in achieving leadership positions.
  • Legal Compliance Issues: Laws such as the Companies Act, 2013, which mandates women directors on company boards, are often not strictly followed.
  • Non-Compliance Fines: From April 2018 to December 2023, 507 companies were fined for non-compliance with the mandate for women directors, with 90% of these being listed companies.

Reasons why?

  1. Gender Bias: Women often encounter gender bias in organizations, where men are perceived as more competent leaders despite similar qualifications. This bias can hinder women’s advancement and make it harder for them to be considered for leadership roles.
  2. Lack of Role Models: With only 8% of S&P 500 CEOs being women, the lack of female role models in leadership positions can make it challenging for women to envision themselves in similar roles. Access to inspiring role models is crucial for encouraging women to pursue leadership positions.
  3. Work-Life Balance: Balancing work and personal responsibilities, such as caregiving, can be particularly challenging for women and may impede their career advancement. Flexible work arrangements and clear communication about needs can help women manage their work-life balance more effectively.
  4. Stereotypes and Expectations: Traditional stereotypes about leadership often do not align with expectations placed on women, leading them to feel inadequate for leadership roles. Challenging stereotypes and focusing on strengths and achievements can empower women to pursue leadership positions confidently.
  5. Limited Access to Networks: Women may face barriers in accessing networks and opportunities necessary for career advancement. Actively participating in industry events, online communities, and volunteering can help women expand their networks and access opportunities for growth and development.

Way forward:

  • Ensure strict adherence to the Companies Act, 2013, which mandates the inclusion of women directors on company boards. Regular audits and substantial penalties for non-compliance can improve adherence.
  • Introduce policies that incentivize companies to promote gender diversity at all levels of management.
  • Implement comprehensive gender bias training programs for all employees, particularly those in hiring and promotion roles, to recognize and mitigate unconscious biases.
  • Develop mentorship programs where women in senior roles mentor junior female employees. This helps in building a pipeline of future female leaders.
  • Highlight and celebrate the achievements of women leaders through internal communications and industry events to inspire other women.
  • Promote flexible working hours, remote work options, and parental leave policies to help women balance professional and personal responsibilities. Also, provide on-site childcare facilities or subsidies for childcare to support working mothers.
  • Create internal women’s networks within organizations to facilitate peer support, knowledge sharing, and career advancement.
  • Offer targeted leadership development programs for women to enhance their skills and readiness for senior roles.
  • Encourage and support women to pursue education and careers in STEM fields, where representation is currently low, through scholarships and targeted outreach programs.