Indian companies come together for the first time to champion gender equality
UN Women, Care and Global Compact Network launch initiative to strengthen women’s participation in Corporate India
Date: Friday, March 8, 2013
On International Women’s Day, leading Indian companies came together for the first time to showcase their efforts to empower women at their workplace. They shared their best practices at the launch of an initiative by UN Women, CARE India and the Global Compact Network to strengthen women’s participation in the corporate sector. Coca-Cola India; HCL Technologies Ltd; Infosys Ltd; Paharpur Business Center and Software Technology Incubator Park; Jindal Stainless Ltd and Wipro Ltd are the six Indian companies committed to the Global Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs). These principles provide guidance to adopt workplace policies to support women’s empowerment.
“India Inc.’s growth story is a globally admired phenomenon. It is timely that the private sector in India has acknowledged that empowering women is not only the right thing to do; it is also essential for building strong economies,” said Ms Sushma Kapoor, Deputy Representative and OIC, UN Women Office for India, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
Globally, over 500 companies have signed on to the WEPs but in India, only six of an estimated 9 lakh-registered companies have committed to them. "Our event is aimed at starting a dialogue since ensuring the inclusion of women’s talents and skills requires deliberate policies. By interacting with the six Indian companies supporting the WEPs, we hope to inspire other corporate and public sector companies to join our initiative,” said Mr. Pooran Chandra Pandey, Executive Director, UN Global Compact Network India.
Championing the cause, Ms. Sangita Jindal, Chairperson, JSW Foundation and Chair, WEPs initiative in India, urged corporate leaders to reaffirm their commitment to women’s empowerment. “This is my call to action to all business and corporate leaders. I hope you will join me in making a commitment to the WEPs for improving the lives of our women,” she said.
A 2010 McKinsey study shows that only 5 per cent of women are on company boards, or appointed as CEOs in India. To counter this, companies have put in place policies to remove barriers that hinder women at work. “We have enhanced our competitive edge by proactively implementing skill-building and mentoring programs to groom women for senior-level positions, leading to an increase in 32 per cent of women in managerial positions,” said Mr. Meattle, CEO, Parharpur Business Center.
In another McKinsey survey, 57 per cent of female respondents stated that the double burden of work and domestic responsibilities are the biggest barriers to participation. A flexible work environment is therefore important. “Wipro’s culture emphasizes merit and fairness. In the context of gender inclusion, this means fostering a zero bias environment, while nurturing growth. Our life-stage approach, which focuses on Exposure, Flexibility and Empowerment builds confidence in women executives to focus on meaningful, long-term careers while also excelling in their social and familial responsibilities,” said Ms. Sunita Cherian, Vice President, Human Resources & Head of Gender Diversity, Wipro.
Discrimination, cultural attitudes and taxation policies were other barriers highlighted by the study. Mr. Richard Lobo, Head of Employee Relations at Infosys said, “In 2003 we set up the first gender-based network in the country - Infosys Women Inclusivity Network. This was established to address specific needs for development, engagement, growth and retention of women by promoting an inclusive workplace. Today we are proud to say women represent 34 per cent of our total workforce.”
Companies also stressed that deliberate policies are required to ensure women’s inclusion at various levels of the value chain— from executive offices to the factory floor and the supply chain. “Women play a critical role in enhancing Coca-Cola’s value chain. The ‘5 by 20’ campaign provides women with business skills, access to finance and know-how of setting up viable businesses, from fruit farmers to retailers,” said Mr. Deepak Jolly, Vice President, Public Affairs and Communication, Coca-Cola India.
Jindal Stainless Ltd uses innovative models through programmes such as, ‘Market on Wheels’ and ‘Business Rural Hub’ to equip women with entrepreneurial skills. “We have impacted lives of women in the communities around our plant locations by organizing them into Self Help Groups and they are trained in various income generating skills and livelihood programmes, with some having already become social entrepreneurs,” shared Mr. Nair, CEO of Jindal Stainless Ltd.
Freedom from violence is also one of the core tenets of the WEPs. “The workplace is a microcosm of the larger ecosystem and we must work at all levels to empower women. HCL urges the corporate community to have zero tolerance for violence against women at the workplace and beyond,” said Ms. Srimathi Shivashankar, Associate Vice President, Diversity & Sustainability, HCL Technologies.
The WEPs initiative will involve the government, industry forums and civil society to support corporates through research and training on gender. “The WEP platform helps in building a greater commitment to gender equality and women’s empowerment within the corporate sector in India by sharing best practices and knowledge. We salute the business leaders and corporate leadership for promoting gender equality,” said Dr. Muhammad Musa, CEO and Country Director, CARE India.
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The Women's Empowerment Principles are a set of Principles for business offering guidance on how to empower women in the workplace, marketplace and community. The Principles are informed by real-life business practices and input gathered from across the globe. For more information, visit www.weprinciples.org