Women aspire to lead but are hesitant: IIM-K study

28 Jul,2021

By Our Staff


The Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce & Industry’s Public Relations and Digital Marketing Council and the Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode (IIMK), have announced the findings of the first edition of the ‘I Lead’ survey – a collaborative study launched to capture the experiences and challenges for women to reach leadership positions in the field of communications. The study also reports the progress made so far by organisations and offers a framework that organisations can adopt to move towards a gender-inclusive workplace.


The ‘I Lead’ survey conducted in early 2021 received a response from 1000+ women communication professionals (across genres of Journalism, Advertising, Public Relations, Digital Communications, Content Writing, Corporate Affairs and Corporate Communications).


As per a recent World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Gender Gap report of 2021, this year India slipped 28 places, and was ranked 140 among 156 countries, indicating the need for enabling policies to support women in the workforce.  In the communications industry, despite women already forming a very large part of the workforce, almost 34%, compared to a national average of 14%, the ratio drops to just 11% at senior management positions, and a mere 3% in boardrooms.


The findings of the recently launched ‘I Lead’ survey corroborate this reality. Less than half (42%) women believe that equal pay for equal work is not practiced.  Two third (68%) respondents stated that their organisation does not have a formal mentoring program for aspiring women leaders. More than half (53%) respondents said that organisations don’t have a clear career growth path for women joining post maternity leave or critical care breaks. 79% women stated that their organisation considers home investments as gaps during promotions or assignment of critical assignments. More than half (53%) respondents said that their organisations do not recruit and engage in formal succession planning to ensure gender diversity. The study indicated a mere tokenism approach exists currently, with Diversity and Inclusion policies being more of a ‘tick-in-the-box’ with little ability to eliminate gender discrimination, increasing instances of workplace bias and deep routed sexism, limited mentoring and training support, and lopsided HR policies. These startling numbers re-emphasize the need for the communications industry to walk the talk of creating an inclusive and equitable work environment for women.


Said Kavita Lakhani, Director Operations, Weber Shandwick and National President, WICCI Public Relations and Digital Marketing Council: “While 66% respondents of the survey agreed to the existence of gender diversity at their workplace, 61% respondents stated that equal number of men and women are not in leadership roles. The ‘I Lead’ survey underscores the need for a gender inclusive culture that enables high-performing women to grow into leadership roles – and above all have complete control and freedom to drive their career journeys in the direction they desire. To empower more women to reach the top, organisations must expedite action in three key areas: modeling leadership and building confidence through role models/networking, progressive policies, and support systems to nurture ‘women of future’ and providing corporate development programs that propel qualified women who aspire to lead.  It is my fervent belief that this study will inform and encourage leaders to take clear and decisive steps to develop the leadership potential of their female employees – and that we will all be stronger for it.”



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