Gender bias continues in India’s corporate boardrooms

March 9th, 2008 - 1:47 pm ICT by admin  

By Anuradha Shukla
New Delhi, March 9 (IANS) About three decades ago a young computer science graduate from Bangalore came across a job advertisement, which said Telco (Tata Engineering and Locomotive Company) wanted bright young graduates, followed by a footnote “female candidates need not apply”. Deeply annoyed, she wrote a postcard to J.R.D. Tata, the legendary founder of the group, asking him how a leading and progressive house like the Tatas, which claimed to think ahead of the times, could put such a restriction.

A telegram soon arrived asking her to appear for an interview with the promise of reimbursement of first class train fare both ways.

The woman who questioned the Tata was Sudha Murthy, an author and philanthropist in her own right and the wife of N.R. Narayan Murthy, the co-founder of Infosys Technologies. She eventually became the first women employee of Telco.

But even when she played a key role in the formative days of Infosys, Sudha chose to be in the background and subsequently resigned from the company’s board of directors.

In Circa 2008, as India celebrated yet another Women’s Day Saturday, the discrimination against women at work continues in corporate boardrooms - they are still not entrusted with many jobs.

“The number of women entrepreneurs is still very low, only 13 percent of the total number,” says a study by the Confederation of Indian industry (CII).

“While there is a healthier ratio of women in junior management, this ratio declines in senior positions, coming down to almost universal levels of male leadership in the topmost positions,” the CII study reveals.

“A recent survey shows that only 13 percent of Indian women are working and thus the rest is wasted potential,” says Swati Piramal, director of pharmaceuticals giant Nicholas Piramal.

“One can only imagine how much India will progress if the percentage of working women increases. As far as the discrimination faced by women at their work places goes, it will decrease with time,” she told IANS, on a positive note.

In many organisations, women are not preferred for some functions, such as the manufacturing or production-related areas, according to several women IANS spoke to. The main reason given to them is security concerns and a perception that women may not be competent enough for these positions.

“Security! That is ridiculous. There is not a single women manager who has not faced any sexual harassment in her career,” says a senior woman working in a leading financial firm, preferring anonymity.

“Your degree, your hard work, do not always pay. Even when we work at par with male colleagues, we are not given due credit. When it comes to promotions, male counterparts are given preference,” she adds.

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