Diversity in India – a new report

Catalyst, the US-based diversity think-tank, has published a new report in its Advancing Women in India series that benchmarks 56 companies with headquarters in India or that are subsidiaries of global businesses with head offices in Europe or the US. The companies are drawn from eight industry sectors, and 66 per cent are listed in the Fortune Global 2000 (including American Express, Coca-Cola, Dow Chemicals, Goldman Sachs, Citibank, General Electric and IBM), with strong representation among India’s largest companies (Aditya Birla Group, Hindustan Construction Company, Tata, Wipro).

As you would expect from a list like this, all companies were found to have formal diversity programmes in place, but some revealing and substantive gaps were identified. Although 71 per cent said they had formal mentoring programmes, only a third tracked their outcomes, such as promotion levels or retention rates. More than 70 per cent of companies had general leadership development programmes and targeted recruitment and retention programmes, but a much smaller percentage had targeted leadership programmes in place for women.

Perhaps most significantly, fewer than 50 per cent of companies held management accountable for delivering diversity, and only 34 per cent had gender training for men.

Women comprised 5 per cent of executives and management in subsidiary companies and 12 per cent in companies with headquarters in India. The stronger representation of women at management levels in companies with head offices in India was repeated throughout management tiers to board level and in the pipeline of executives ready for management positions. More women were leaving companies at management levels than men, but the gap was often just a few percentage points. Among senior managers, subsidiary companies lost more women at this level (11 per cent) than India-headquartered companies (6 per cent).

One of Catalyst’s mantras is “what gets measured gets done” – as quoted in Lord Davies’ report into women on UK boards. This research shows that companies in India may currently be falling short of proven best practice in two key areas: rigorous reporting and board responsibility for diversity. Without measuring the effects of diversity inputs or ensuring it is a priority for the board, programmes may not ensure that companies successfully harness the full range of talent.

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