Women rarely make it to the top in Indian companies, but once they do, they stick.
With an attrition rate of just 4%, women are twice as likely to stay back in their organisations at the C-Suite level, according to a 2018 study by workplace diversity expert AVTAR Group and Working Mother Media, a US-based gender-parity advocate. For male corporate executives, the rate is 8%.
“With extremely volatile talent markets, this goes on to show that companies that invest in developing and growing women into leadership (positions) are more likely to retain their talent,” the study said.
The study was conducted among 345 Indian employers, and listed the top 100 firms based on workforce profile, flexible work, women’s recruitment and retention, benefits and work-life programmes, parental leave, company culture, and safety and security.
Besides leadership roles, the study found that attrition levels are lower among women in several other positions.
Despite making strides in recent years, the pace of hiring women hasn’t been as impressive. Between 2017 and 2018, their share of all new hires slipped from 36% to 33.5%, the report found.
However, the overall women’s representation at the 100 best companies has been steadily rising, reaching over 31% in 2018 from 25% back in 2016, data show.
At the middle and senior management levels, men were 3% more likely than women to be promoted, the report said. However, at the C-suite level, promotion rates of men and women are almost neck and neck at 5.3% and 5.6%, respectively.
Overall, the top 100 companies for gender diversity in India employ 441,000 women. Of these, 282,000 work for the top 10 employers.
These firms made bigger strides for women in the workforce than the rest, be it in appointing female business heads or having formal programmes for second-career women and new mothers returning after a hiatus.
The high retention rates come from mentoring and skill-building programmes as well as the fact that all the firms on the Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI) ranking provide flexible working arrangements such as flexi-time and telecommuting. Remote work options were available at 77% of the companies.
Additionally, there have been myriad targeted efforts towards tackling maternity and motherhood.
First off, among the 100 best companies for women, the average duration of a fully paid maternity leave was 27 weeks—slightly longer than the 26-week period prescribed by law.
Then, to help reintegrate new mothers, most companies create phase-back programmes. Many workplaces also provide formal support to counter postpartum stress and depression through buddy mother networks and pre-scheduled stay-in-touch days, among other things.
“This is (a) validation of the fact that the best companies are intentionally investing in the emotional well-being of returning mothers,” the report stated, citing examples like daycare facilities. On average, each of the top 100 firms spent Rs6,000 ($83) on an employee’s childcare in 2018; the top 10 spent around Rs8,700.
So these companies posted a low 12% maternity attrition on average, meaning that 88% of women resumed full-time work after their maternity break.