Women in Employment - the Indian Situation

Certain issues in the society affect me so much that I get upset. I am upset that I am unable to help improve the situation. One such issue is the employment of women in business, especially in India (probably the situation is almost similar elsewhere too). One of the discussion threads in the main Forum triggered off my present discomfort. I though I should share with you a part of the Conference Paper that I presented last year at the Women's Christian College, Chennai, to highlight the issue of employment of women in India. Here is the relevant extract:

Employment of Women & Other Diversity issues

The information on employment of women in the Indian Business Organizations does not show that the “equal opportunity employer” policy has been effectively implemented across various sectors of Industry.

The ICT companies report a healthy representation of women among their employees (Infosys: 33.4 %; TCS: 30 %; Wipro: 25.6 %); even in these companies the representation of women at the Board Level or Senior Management level is abysmally low (0-5 %). The % of women employees goes down as they move up the management ladder. For example, WIPRO Technologies reports that for the year 2007-2008, 32 % of Associates, 10.75 % of Middle level Managers, 9.34 % of Senior Managers, 4.04 % of Top level Managers were women. In WIPRO Infotech, the corresponding numbers are:13.34 %, 6.03 %, 3.12 %, 0.0 %

Technology Companies appear to employ more women; for example Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories reports that 1/3 of all new recruitments are women (2008-2009). Similarly Jubilant Organosys reports that significant proportion of executives in different businesses of the company is women (varies from 8.0 % to 59.0 % in different businesses).

The percentage of women among the employees in most of the traditional sector companies is much below 10 %; Table 2 provides information on the women employees as a percentage of the total employees in some of the Indian companies.

Company Women employees (%)
Sterlite Industries 12.91 %
SIDBI 10.51 %
Reliance Industries Ltd. 09.00 %
Larsen & Toubro Ltd. 06.00 %
Tata Motors 02.81 %
MSPL 02.22 %
Jain Irrigation 02.08 %
ACC 01.88 %
Grasim Cement 01.50 %

Table 2. Women employees as % of total employees

Most of the women are employed in the lower echelons of management and staff. Women’s representation at the Board and senior management Level in these companies is zero or negligible.

Table 3 provides information on the percentage of women at different levels of the organization from a few sample companies.

Sterlite Grasim ACC
Contractor / Worker 1.85 % 0.4 % 1.1 %
Executive 12.37 % 2.14 %
Middle Management 14.95 % 2.35 % 4.25%
Senior Management 1.61 % 0.89 % 2.15%
Top Management 0.0 % 0.0 % 1.5 %

Table 3: Percentage of Women among employees at different levels in some traditional sector industries (2007-2008)

It appears that women progress up to the Middle Management without much hurdle and most of them stagnate there (this is also true for male employees).

The ICT companies appear to be following the policy of equal opportunity employers; the traditional sector industries (e.g. Larsen & Toubro, Tata Motors, Jubilant etc.) also claim that there is no discrimination in basic pays of male and female employees. But these claims have not been backed by data as required by the GRI guidelines. Only ACC has provided data on the average salaries of male and female employees at different levels in the organization (Table 4)
Average Male Salary per Year (Rs.) Average Female Salary per year (Rs.)
Entrance Level 3,43,535 3,43,666
Middle Level 6,51,039 6,19,637
Top/Senior Level 26,36,031 13,98,594

Table 4: Variations in salaries of male and female employees

Almost all the other sampled companies claim that there is no difference in the salaries of male and female employees, without providing any verified data. This issue, therefore, requires further probing.

Despite the low level of employment of women in Indian companies, no company has an explicitly stated target for increasing their proportion in their employment and at the top management level. In the researchers’ opinion, “inclusive growth” cannot be achieved without giving proper representation of women at different levels in the business organization.
There appears to be no special effort, except in the case of ITC Hotels, to facilitate the employment of diverse groups in the society. ITC Hotels reports employment of 134 people with disability through a formal company programme (2008-2009).

Jain irrigation reports employment of 8.5 % of minority community; it is not clear from its Sustainability Report if this has been achieved in a planned manner. 36.7 % of SIDBI employees are from the disadvantaged sections of the Society; there are 15 people with disabilities in employment in SIDBI.

Unless companies take conscious policy decisions and set targets for employment of diverse disadvantaged groups, it will be left to PSUs to fight a lonely battle in this area.

I believe that the situation, especially with respect to top management, is the same throughout the world. The average % of women at the Board Level is likely to be less than 5 %. I am not sure if such a situation is sustainable !
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Staff member
Super Moderator
I for one do not see a discomfort situation in the figures seen and believe it is a natural settlement.
Equal opportunities exist right from the schooling to technical and professional education and at these stages girls fare equally well or better even. As things grow, more bigger things of family and independent living, a husband, kid / kids start taking priority. Women attach different importance to such situations and act accordingly into child care and home care. This is realised sooner or later and in certain forced cases of being a single mother, some sort of balance is finally struck. This is evident as also seen in the figures and I wonder how this situation is not sustainable. Women under all levels and catagories show this behaviour. I would rather feel strongly for the working women equality in case of textile and garment labour and such other where the income of the women certainly adds to the home, else they suffer. This is in a way forced labour, in sense they force themselves to labour hard for the betterment of the family and the offsprings., else for their own decent living being divorced or otherwise seperated.
I have seen top notch electrical engineer girl who fails to attend to her own electric iron repair but solves complex electrical circuits and is a highly placed engineer. They are brillent academically but deep inside they do not desire to continue a career and contribute to the society. Sometimes I feel they rob an opportunity of an young engineer to kick start his career. Slowly in a matter of few years all that acadamic brillence takes a backseat and home comes front.
Dear Somashekar,

Thank you for your comment. It appears that our sensitivities on this issue are quite different; while I get upset, you question why I get upset. My sensitivity arises out of my experience all over the world (except in Africa) and education in the field. I genuinely believe that in a globalized world there is no room for discrimination. I also believe that women are in no way inferior to men in carrying out any function. Women have been deprived of their rightful place in the society and economy for too long; the argument given for its continuance is illogical and archaic. Change is painful; but without change we can not grow. Sustainability is about growth and maintenance of that growth in the long run. Sustainable companies have already set targets for the % of women employees in leadership positions to respond to this reality.

Please don't mistake me; I respect your view even though I do not agree with your view. You have every right to have your view on this issue. But it does not fit into my value system.

With kind regards,



Staff member
Super Moderator
Dear RK.
I'day Greetings, and my respects to you always.
Please understand me that I do not question your view or value system and I have great respects to your stand. I am sharing things from my view point and from my background.
Ideally I am also for a equality or 50:50 in all walks of life for everyone, and there are only two here., Men and Women.
I tend to believe that by physique and by mindset and by genes and by histroy and by tredition we are made differently. So for a given situation we act and react differently. Equal opportunities are provided for the population, but if there are no takers, who is to blame.
Recently I came across an application process for national merit scholorship for science students, and girl students were exempted from the registration fee. I could call it motivation or discrimination. Not bothering to do that, when I see the list of previous years merit results, there seems to be no trend of only boys or girls exceeding noticeably.
Women are great cooks .... at home, but when it comes to professional cooking, why is it that we do not find them in plenty ? Why does the man dig the ditch and the women carry the mud and gravel and dump aside ? Why are there more men in linkedin.com than women ? When given all opportunities and equally as well, sooner or later the natural settlement seems to take place.
My feeling from my experience is that said or unsaid an equal opportunity employer does not get to have equally distributed population. So why blame the system. No body is in a disadvantage group. Everyone gets what they desire and deserve. It is the drive within that counts and for this I come back to my opening line, ... by various things we are made differently and driven differently.
We can take a horse to water, buy we cannot make it drink. We provide equal opportunity (added benefits to weaker section included) but we cannot make the ratio to be equal.
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The Specialist

To play devil’s advocate on this issue, I thought I would chime in…

I can agree with the both points of view expressed in this blog to a degree.

I agree entirely that there should be equal opportunity in education and in the workplace for both men and women (and ethnic minorities/ disabled (where job-able)). I don’t think there can be any argument that this is not right and proper.

Where this falls down slightly, is that Somashekar does have a point. But has been (perhaps) misunderstood with his point…

Many women are indeed more interested and determined in their careers in these modern times and they should be treated in the same manner as men with career opportunity and advancement.

There are too, as Somashekar points out, those women who value their home and family life above their career. Or, those who intend to have a family (children) in the future.

This, in my opinion, has a three-fold effect on the stats…

1. There are fewer women than men working towards the heights of upper level management and the boardroom.

2. Many women take ‘career-breaks’ in order to satisfy both their family and career needs, putting them at a disadvantage to their male counterparts.

3. A ‘fear’ exists within an organisation that the woman may leave/ take time out for her family or to have a family – putting off some organisations from promoting women into ‘Key’ important positions.

Of course, I have no doubt that an ‘old boys club’ attitude still exists in many organisations, as with some societies - there is still a lack of respect for women.
I can’t talk for the rest of the developed world, but I believe this becoming less of an issue in modern-day Britain… I am sure there is still more to do though.

My question would be… What do you propose to do to get ‘even’ stats?

If you are suggesting promoting people just because of their gender/race/disability then are you not going against the ethos of ‘equal opportunity’?

People should be placed/ promoted on merit ONLY… THAT is equal oportunity.
Dear Justin,

Thank you for your comments.

I agree with your analysis. I agree with you that "People should be placed/ promoted on merit ONLY… THAT is equal opportunity". I also understand Somashekar's view. My concern is that to be sustainable we can not afford to leave out 50 % of the humanity in our economic development. With my limited experience I can say that countries like China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand etc., are exploiting this opportunity, at least up to the middle management level. As I have pointed out even in India the ICT companies and knowledge (R & D) based companies have increased the number of women employees in their rolls. As more and more women join these companies I would expect that they start filling up posts (on merit) at the top levels in the years to come.

One of the hurdles for a woman to progress in a traditional company is the bias built over many years against women in positions of authority; that is where a target driven initiative will help. When I say target, it need not be 50 %; one can start with even 1 % at the top level (all requirements have to be similar to that prescribed for a male manager and the candidate has to be found to be the best suited for the job) and slowly progress towards whatever is the optimum for that organization. Without targets, nothing gets done.

With kind regards,


The Specialist

Dr. Ramakrishnan,

I applaud your view and totally agree that steps must be taken in all societies to ensure that all prejudice and discrimination is stamped out.

In order for changes to take place there must be a collective ‘voice’.

In my opinion them, all-be-it slow, solution is continued education and discussion on this topic.

These issues tend (in my experience) to be generational and can take some time to change. Not to say that nothing should be done about it now… but it will take a better man than I to truly figure out how!


This is an issue I have some fairly strong feelings about. I will attempt to be brief andf to the point, and I apologise if I offend anyone.

Any appointment to any role MUST be on merit and ability only. If someone is unreliable - for any reason, this is a reflection on ability and merit and should be taken into consideration.

There is still some discrepancy in figures between male and female, and thios is also down to willingness - far fewer females of my age group WANTED to be engineers than men. Almost no males in my peer group during education WANTED to work with children.

There is also I think an issue with regards equality in law, maternity and paternity leave in the UK is unbalanced between mother and father, and this can feed discrimination by companies - either concious or un-concious. correction of this inequality is vital to allow equality to spread.

I won't even get started on custody in divorce cases....

Just my thoughts



I agree on this comment section that everyone should have equal rights, but because there are certain old fashion people in the world thru-out, there will always be this happening in the world.
To me, women represent a calmer side of life, for your personal life, and your business life. Over the years, I have seen women do so much in the workplace with managing people, have the skills needed for getting the task at hand done fully, and to be honest, I would rather have a woman leader than a man for that reason.
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