WOMEN WORKFORCE AND OFFICE ENVIRONMENTS

Posted on February 27, 2015

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On a average, only 8 per cent of top executives in the world are female. With 30 per cent of companies employing female CEOs, South Korea has the highest proportion of female top executives in the world. Surprisingly, this is they are followed by the People’s Republic of China, where 19 per cent of all the top executives are female.

Averages in the European Union range between 9 per cent and 12 per cent. In the United States, this number is a dismal 5 per cent. With some of the most influential ladies running global organisations such as HP, Morgan Stanley and Pepsi Co, it is a bit of a surprise that United States has only 5% of its organisations being run by women. This could also be a mere statistic due to the size of the US pie.

In India, the focus is back on the extremely poor work participation of women, with just 22.5 per cent, against Norway,which has the world’s the highest at 69 per cent.

Amidst social challenges, more Indian women are coming forward to expose incidents of discrimination and sexual harassment at the workplace. Perhaps a good look at the Norwegian case might offer some useful insights.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Norway has successfully pushed up women's labor participation from just 44 per cent to almost 70 per cent, compared to 76 per cent among men. Over 80 per cent of mothers with small children are employed in Norway. This was achieved through strong state-backed incentives, regulations, legislation and quotas. This was peripherally designed around the early child care program, where children over the age of one could be enrolled in kindergarten. And up to one year, parents get fully paid leaves to look after the baby, which they can divide between themselves, with the father mandated to take a compulsory 10 weeks of leave during that year as paternal leave.

Some of the thoughts echoed by working mothers could be translated into key initiatives at the corporate level that can encourage an increase of the women workforce at the workplace, resulting in better consistency and effective results.

  • More effective policies around maternity and postnatal period such as the one which is in place in Norway. This can be implemented either by the government or even at the company level.
  • There could be far simpler initiatives which many corporates could coin.
  • Creches within offices: Operated by corporates with over X employees.This could definitely result in a better environment for working mothers as they don't need to worry about distance in case of an emergency. They are closer to their child and can be more productive at work.
  • Flexible work options in this growing world of mobile working and the internet. There are options today to allow women to work from locations closer to their homes, where they can carry out their work effectively and increase business from these units.
  • Women entrepreneurs probably need a special push from the policy perspective of the government. The previous schemes should be closely measured and should include appropriate tax rebates on mothers wish to become an entrepreneur.
  • Provision of better and larger sanitation and hygiene facilities within organisations today could render better results.
  • Removal of discriminating barriers:

(a) Prohibitions or restrictions on members of a particular gender entering a field or studying a field

(b) Discrimination within a field, including wage, management and prestige hierarchies

(c) Expectation that mothers, rather than fathers, should be the primary childcare providers

Creating equal opportunities and levelling the playing field for women through corporate programs and policies, especially around discrimination at the workplace, may encourage this critical but very talented, engaged and diversified workforce segment to be more productive at work.

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