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How Traditional Management Practices Still Limit The Progress Of Indian Women At Work

Posted: April 27, 2020

Whether it’s bias against women (especially of child-bearing age), casteism, or nepotism, India Inc needs to work much harder to create a fair workplace.

India now is on the map for its technological prowess, a large pool of creative talent, strength in nuclear weapons and advancement in every sector of the economy. Some of the largest corporations like the Tatas, Birla Group, Reliance Group, Dr. Reddy’s, Suzlon, HCL technologies, Infosys and many more have made India proud with their sheer excellence in business.

Having said that, we still follow traditional theories of management even in modern workplaces today, thereby leaving us wondering how professional and progressive we are in the real sense. This essay will throw light on the existing traditional management methods that continue in the corporate landscape of India, and the aim is to showcase a few of them and understand them briefly, with some suggestions on tackling it.

Discrimination against women in the corporate world still exists. Despite large numbers of women aspiring to work and get promoted, they are denied the opportunity on grounds of gender. Though corporate India has gender diversity as a priority and ensures equal participation from women in the workforce, a majority of them still face discrimination.

Historically, women have been caretakers of the family and never ventured out to work, and have taken care of ensuring food, managing the house and bringing up children. However, this has changed now with women working in MNCs and aspiring for higher incomes and financial independence. But some companies even today deliberately don’t hire women in their late 30’s assuming that they’re dropping out due to marriage and maternity leave.

Further, they recruit them in secondary and routine jobs that involve minimal decision making, risk-taking, and challenge plus lesser remuneration; all of this despite women possessing exemplary credentials, resulting in the male force getting the jackpot. This demoralises women and leads to rising attrition levels, therefore, making it tough for HR to manage the dropout rates among employees.

However, measures like daycare facilities, maternity leave, flexible work timings, parental leave, pick and drop facility with preference given to women first in night shifts are some of the changes MNCs can make, in order to break the traditional gender bias in the management of organizations today.

Also, Indian men are traditionally bread earners at home and having to report into women at work becomes an ego issue for them, thus leading to them shifting to a team with a male boss. Apart from this, the typical Indian mentality of nepotism and stereotyping which has historically existed in government institutions, surprisingly works in MNCs even today.

Qualified and competent job aspirants, of a particular caste, are denied lucrative roles and are subject to lower salaries and poor working conditions, whereas candidates with poor credentials, but belonging to a caste that is dominant in the organization get hired instead. As an extension to this, bonding with colleagues speaking the same mother tongue leads to forming alliances and the remaining get excluded. If India claims to be a global country, why do these old fashioned methods still exist?

Professors Manaswini Bhalla of IIMB and Manisha Goel of Pomona College along with a few others authored a paper called Firms of a feather flock together, which discusses ‘Cultural proximity and firms outcome’ – a phenomenon where mergers and acquisitions between businesses with directors from the same caste are still prevalent even in progressive corporate today. For instance, they highlighted how firms with a maximum representation of directors belonging to the Agarwal caste will acquire other Agarwal board dominated firms, thus propagating this regressive managerial practice. Therefore, if we want to be dropped out of the bracket of ‘third world countries’, this plague needs to be eradicated immediately.

Another segment of Indian corporates largely consists of family businesses (including those such as the Birlas, Reliance Group, and Ranbaxy among others), wherein it’s commonly seen that the owner’s son is the boss, irrespective of his capability. The boss’ children can behave in unprofessional ways including displaying unbridled anger at employees, leading to fear and rising attrition among employees, which in turn leads to them moving to more professional and merit-based organizations that recognize their capabilities. Therefore the inherent DNA of the founders needs to change in order to inculcate a merit-based HR policy and flat corporate hierarchy to ensure an equitable and just working environment for its employees.

Having briefly studied the corporate landscape in India, there is an urgent need to change our perspective towards nepotism and discrimination towards women. Our country is one of the largest democracies in the world and it’s only fair to live up to it, by allowing freedom to flourish in a non- biased environment in our corporates.

Diversity hiring needs to be encouraged in the HR space for women, and merit-based promotions need to be enforced in the corporate culture to see a new India, a better India.

Image via Canva

First published here.

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Sarika Tainwala is a corporate marketing professional with 6+ years of work experience in Client

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