Women students and the alumni of 20 Indian Institute of Management said they lack a level playing field at the workplace. In the second pan-IIM survey, about 35 per cent of the respondents said they do not have equal opportunities for career growth as the men in their organisations.
The survey on ‘Women in the Workplace,’ based on women alumni and students from the 20 IIMs, is an initiative of IIM-Kozhikode and led by Uma Kasoji, IIM-K alumnus and board member. While this number has shown a decline from 49 per cent in the previous edition of the survey (2020), there is considerable scope for improvement.
Gender stereotyping and bias emerged as key factors hindering the progress of women professionals. As many as 58 per cent of the respondents said they encountered bias at the workplace, the most common is ‘Prove it again’ and ‘The Tightrope’.
Nearly 26 per cent encountered the ‘Prove it Again’ bias where women are held to a higher standard than men and must continually prove themselves. Women are promoted on performance, while men are promoted on potential.
‘The Tightrope’ bias is faced by 23 per cent of professional women. They were seen as too weak or too assertive — and in response, must try to balance between the two. Elimination of unconscious bias is among the most valued diversity and inclusion initiatives.
Director IIM-Kozhikode, Prof Debashis Chatterjee, said: “Business is no longer an only male prerogative. Our move to bring in 54 per cent women in 2013 radically transformed the 50-year old IIM tradition, wherein earlier no more than 8-10 per cent of the classroom were women. This game-changing process in turn signalled a major shift across women representation not only in B-Schools but also in businesses. With this survey, we attempt to go a step further to decode and give a voice to the women from IIMs who continue to challenge the stereotypes and break new grounds. The woman of today only demands equal opportunities, it is their time to lead and shine.”
The dearth of women in leadership was evident with 61 per cent saying that female representation in their organisations’ top leadership tier was insignificant and that they need more role models to look up to. The lack of female role models made it to the top 3 challenges, along with a lack of mentorship and a lack of strong professional networks and allies.
In keeping with the current global situation, the survey included questions on the post-pandemic work scenario. About 81 per cent of the respondents said they prefer to work from home at least partially even post the pandemic. When questioned on how organisations can make the post-pandemic work environment more conducive, respondents said that apart from safety and hygiene, there was a pressing need to set expectations around remote work. In order to ensure that remote working does not result in burn out, the ask is for organizations to enforce strict adherence to work hours and train managers on how to manage a remote workforce effectively.
In terms of dream companies, Google, Amazon and McKinsey held the fort from last year, with Tesla and Unilever being new entrants to the list. Indra Nooyi and Kiran Shaw Mazumdar emerged as the most admired women leaders.
The survey received over 350 responses, with the majority of the participants working at mid-to senior-management levels across industries. While most of the responses came from India, there were responses in 15 other countries.