Intuitively, the public opinion on ‘Women in Business’ portrays a somewhat bleak picture for aspirants. However, the perception that business environment is not propitious for women is disconnected from reality, more so in the contemporary world. Recent trends and developments paint a bright picture for women aspiring to step into the vast world of business. Moreover, the differentiated success of women premiers of Germany, New Zealand and Taiwan in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is going to put women leaders in the spotlight in a post-Covid world. The pandemic has brought feminine virtues such as compassion, decisiveness, strong communications and empathy to the fore of decision making whether in business or otherwise.
Sustainable Development Goal 5 (Gender equality) has reinvigorated the drive towards gender parity. Our government stands for increased women participation in workforce as manifested in the NITI Aayog’s India@75 road map. There have been a host of initiatives in this regard by the government in recent past. Moreover, tax incentives for companies employing women above a threshold and other gender sensitive provisions are under consideration. A study by the International Monetary Fund suggested that encouraging women’s participation in the workforce can boost India’s GDP by 6.8%. This insight provides yet another compelling reason for the government to strive for more women in workforce especially more women entrepreneurs and women in leadership roles. Contemporary developments such as the Supreme Court criticising and rejecting the centre’s argument of why women cannot be given higher posts in the Indian army, are proof that we are moving towards a more gender equal world.
Research has shown that greater diversity in the workforce increases productivity, improves decision making, and heightens performance. Diversity hiring is a top priority among Indian recruiters according to Linkedin’s Global Recruitment trends report. Although there has been an unprecedented increase in demand for women in business the supply of women with business education has not increased commensurately, implying abundant opportunities on the platter for the ones having it.
The board of directors of Indian companies is probably the last bulwark of male domination in the country’s business landscape. However, there has been a significant regulatory push from SEBI recently that has made it mandatory for companies to have at least one independent woman director on their boards. Businesses too seem to realise the positive influence of a gender diverse board and management whether in terms of improved financial performance, reduced risks, lesser corruption, enhanced market knowledge and reputation or enhanced employee satisfaction to name a few. Consequently, there has been a persistent rise in the representation of women in top leadership positions in the last few years. A recent online study ‘Women on board 2020’ done amongst 7,824 listed companies across 36 countries ranked India on the 12th position. The study revealed that among 628 listed Indian companies, 55% have women directors, which is 14% higher than last year. This trend is encouraging since having more women on the board will sensitise the organization towards concerns pertaining to women in the business environment. Furthermore, it is going to make the workplace even more conducive for personal and professional growth of women.
MBA is a very powerful tool for women providing them access to powerful networks and instant credibility. This can go a long way in helping women to challenge the status quo and rise above the dark ominous clouds cast by various social, cultural and economic taboos and see the light of the day. Moreover, a business education teaches you how to be more effective not only in the business environment but also in the world in general. Leadership skills, confidence, effective communication, credibility and self-consciousness are some of the benefits of an MBA that are as significant to a women in familial setting as they are to a CEO.
The lesser number of women in business is a seemingly discouraging fact for women aspiring for an MBA but it is only by having more women that we can get more women. SME IIT Jodhpur is committed to the cause of gender equality in business. We believe that our modular MBA program is going to take us a long way in addressing the social and familial hurdles that female aspirants face in higher education. The flexibility that this MBA program provides is going to help not only women but also all perspective students in general to strike a balance between their career aspirations and personal responsibilities.
Besides, a successful corporate career may not be the ultimate goal of every MBA student. Especially in case of women, their higher representation in sectors like health and education manifests their social service inclination. Then what intrinsic value does an MBA hold for individuals who not only want to do well but also want to do good? The scope of business education is not only limited to profit mongers but there are many such domains where application of business knowledge can enable one to contribute to the society in a meaningful way. One can be an entrepreneur creating livelihood for several families or one can simply be a part of a social enterprise that attaches more value to social good than it does to profit.
I believe it’s time for our women to step into management and leadership roles more proactively than ever before and own their own success.
About the Author
Dr.Akanksha Choudhary is a faculty in the area of Economics at School of Management and Entrepreneurship, IIT Jodhpur.