Women in Leadership in Corporate India

Women in Leadership in Corporate India

Published: 30 May 2024

The Indian corporate landscape is gradually transforming, with a growing recognition of the importance of gender diversity in leadership. The 2013 Companies Act has contributed to this shift by mandating the presence of at least one woman director on the boards of listed companies. Regulatory reforms, such as SEBI’s gender diversity disclosures, have also mandated female representation on boards. However, there remains a persistent challenge across women’s workplace journeys. Data from LinkedIn’s Economic Graph, covering over 1 billion members shows that while women are increasingly visible at entry and mid-level positions, their numbers decrease significantly as they move up the corporate ladder.

Several factors contribute to this disparity. For example, organisations with rigid hierarchies and established cultures may harbour unconscious biases against women. This can limit access to crucial mentorship programs and leadership development opportunities, which are frequently cited as key factors for advancement. Additionally, the demands of senior leadership roles, including long hours and travel, can create work-life balance challenges that disproportionately impact women.

The female labor force participation rate in India has been low, but improving gradually, reaching 37.0% in 2023. Women in leadership roles can play a critical role in getting more women in the workforce for several reasons.

First, they serve as role models, inspiring younger women to pursue careers and aspire to leadership positions. Secondly, companies led by women are often more likely to create inclusive work environments that support working mothers, offering flexible work arrangements and better childcare options. Moreover, female leaders frequently champion initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion within their organisations, fostering a welcoming atmosphere for women at all levels. These leaders can also use their influence to advocate for policies that benefit working women, such as improved childcare services and parental leave. In essence, increasing the number of women in leadership positions can initiate a positive cycle. As more women participate in the workforce, the economy benefits from a broader range of talents and perspectives, ultimately contributing to sustainable economic growth and societal progress.

The analysis of LinkedIn Economic Graph data reveals that while there has been a marked increase in overall female representation across various job levels in Indian industries, progress in elevating women to senior leadership roles has been modest. The percentage of women in senior leadership roles has marginally increased from 16.6% in 2016 to a peak of 18.7% in 2023, dropping slightly to 18.3% in 2024. Over the past nine years, there has been growth in female leadership hires, increasing from 18.8% in 2016 to 25.2% in 2021 but declining to approximately 23.2% as of January 2024. Despite relatively stronger representation of women at entry and senior independent contributor levels, the proportion of women in the workforce declines as they progress into higher managerial roles. Industries like Professional Services, Healthcare and Education lead with higher female representation in leadership, while sectors like Construction, Oil & Gas, Mining, and Utilities show lower representation. This data underscores the need for continued efforts to achieve gender parity in leadership across diverse industries in the Indian economy.

Contextualising the data against existing barriers and challenges, this report provides future-forward recommendations for different stakeholders in the ecosystem. It aims to highlight key recommendations that can leverage the potential of Indian women in the workforce and pave the way for a more prosperous future.

Read the full report on Women in Corporate Leadership here