The Women’s Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry's (WICCI) public relations and digital marketing council and B-School, Indian Institute of Management, Kozhikode (IIMK) has launched the findings of the first edition of its ‘I Lead’ survey.
The study captures the experiences and challenges that women face, in order to reach leadership positions in the field of communications. It also suggests the progress made by organisations so far and lays down a framework to help them move towards a gender-inclusive workplace.
The ‘I Lead’ survey was conducted in early 2021, and received responses from over a 1000 female communication professionals, across journalism, advertising, public relations, digital communications, content writing, corporate affairs and corporate communications.
The report states that less than 42% of women believe that equal pay for equal work is not practiced. 68% of respondents believe that their organisations do not have a formal mentoring program for aspiring women leaders, whereas 53% of them state that they don’t have a clear career growth path for women joining post maternity leave or after critical care breaks. 79% women shared that their companies consider home investments as barriers for promotions or when assigning critical projects.
53% of respondents also highlighted how their organisations do not engage in formal succession planning to ensure gender diversity.
Diversity and inclusion policies seem to have little ability to eliminate gender discrimination, workplace bias, deep routed sexism, limited mentoring, training support, and lopsided HR policies, according to the study.
Looking at the bright side, the survey also captured the progress made by companies in recent years to ensure a more inclusive environment.
As per this, 68% of women stated that male and female employees are evaluated on equal parameters, while 67% participants accepted that their organisations value and nurture ambitious women.
More than 63% of the respondents agreed to receiving upskilling opportunities, whereas 74% of women shared that their organisations encourage them to speak up against workplace discrimination and harassment.
To help companies achieve their inclusivity goals, the ‘I Lead’ survey recommends a transformative framework called OTS, to address the three gaps identified as policy, skillset, and mindset level.
Organisational policies: Inclusive, realistic and impact driven organisational policies, designed to support ‘women of future’ need to be the foundation of a workplace
Training, mentoring and development: The need to focus on sustained and comprehensive training, development, and mentorship programs for women at different stages in their career journeys, including those returning to work post a maternity, sabbatical or a career break
Support system: Creating independent support network groups, both at an organisational and industry level, to help women employees be heard without judgement
The framework also suggests that the additional responsibility of ensuring equal pay for women at different stages of their career, lies with human resource departments, consultancies, and recruiters.
Kavita Lakhani, director operations, Weber Shandwick and national president, WICCI public relations and digital marketing council, said, “While 66% respondents of the survey agreed to the existence of gender diversity at their workplace, 61% respondents stated that equal numbers 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.”
Deepa Sethi, chairperson, PGP-LSM, IIM Kozhikode, and the project coordinator said, “It is high time women are treated equally. Diversity and inclusion policies need to be implemented in true essence. Women are not asking for special treatment, nonetheless they do deserve equal treatment in every aspect of work including their climbing the ladder to the leadership roles. Success stories are not written on paper, these are engraved in human minds through the way we transact with each other as individuals. The ‘I Lead’ survey is an attempt to put together a framework towards a healthy workforce and is grounded on perspectives from women in the PR and communications industry in India.”