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GIRL POWER

India Inc is now willing to pay more to fix its gender diversity problem

Sushma U N
By Sushma U N

Writer

From our Obsession

Future of Work

Preparing for a labor force that doesn't yet exist.

Indian companies seem to be finally taking gender diversity seriously.

In 2017, the number of women employed in corporate India jumped to 31% of the total workforce from around 25% the previous year, an October 2017 report from talent strategy consulting firm Avtar Group had said.

Now, an increasing number of companies are even offering to pay extra to scout for female candidates, recruitment firms say.

“A lot of our clients, which are global multinationals, give us an extra or added incentive—up to 25% of our fee—to help recruit female candidates,” Vidur Gupta, director of staffing firm Spectrum Talent Management, told Quartz.

Diversity hiring is one of the top priorities among Indian recruiters in 2018, according to LinkedIn’s Global Recruitment Trends report (pdf), released in January. Far more Indian recruiters are focused on it this year than in countries like the US, Canada, Germany, and France, said the report, based on a survey of 8,815 recruiters across the world, including 1,013 from India.

This is a marked shift for a country where women make for less than a third of the working population.

Women at work

While women are more in demand across roles, hiring female talent in top roles has particularly gained importance among Indian companies, recruitment professionals said.

There’s a reason for this. Studies have shown that bringing in more women translates into increased revenues and profitability as female employees bring in different perspectives and ideas. Teams with more women show a higher average IQ, greater confidence, and lower turnover rate, a 2014 report by US-based non-profit Anita Borg Institute said.

While women-only recruitment drives are not new to Indian companies, such initiatives have so far been too few and far between to make an impact. However, now more firms are weaving diversity hiring into their annual recruitment cycles, HR firms say.

“It’s like a project engagement, where, as and when we come across a woman candidate, we refer them to clients. It is a different way of headhunting (than before),” said James Agrawal, managing director of recruitment consulting firm BTI Executive Search.

The trend has even prompted talent-acquisition firms to adopt new strategies.

The Indian arm of Singapore-based BTI Executive Search has even hived off a separate wing within the company to manage diversity hiring. The Indian arm of US-based talent management firm KellyOCG is also proactively conducting such drives, said Francis Padamadan, senior director of the company.

HR firms are also relying on data analytics to make their diversity hiring more efficient. For example, Aon CoCubes has created a database of female professionals from across the country, which it regularly mines.

But there is still a long way to go.

“Some companies ask for a woman candidate for some specific roles but I discourage that and say you are looking at diversity as equality. Don’t look at it from a tactical perspective, it has to be by logic and by credentials,” said Ajay Shah, vice-president of recruitment services at TeamLease.

HR experts also say that while organisations are making the workplace more women-friendly by providing childcare facilities or putting in place an anti-sexual harassment policy, leaders at many organisations still have a negative mindset about having them at the management level or on the board.

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