Kozhikode: “Give us a level playing field and leave the rest to us. We can take on any challenge and succeed’, say the respondents from a survey of women alumnae and students from the 20 IIMs in the country. A staggering 35% of the respondents said they do not have equal opportunities for career growth as the men in their organizations. While this number has shown a decline from 49% in the previous edition of the survey (2020), there is considerable scope for improvement.
The second Pan-IIM survey on ‘Women in the Workplace’, is an initiative of IIM Kozhikode, an institute celebrating its Silver Jubilee year, known equally for being the pioneer IIM in diversity leadership and trailblazing academic excellence. The survey received over 350 responses from alumni and students across the 20 IIMs, with the majority of respondents working at mid to senior management levels across industries. While most of the responses came from India, it was interesting to see a response mix across 15 other countries.
Sharing the thought behind conducting the survey, Director IIM Kozhikode, Prof. Debashis Chatterjee, elaborated “Business Schools are a microcosm of the larger society which form the larger ecology of business. Business is no longer an only male prerogative. Our move to bring in 54% women in 2013 radically transformed the 50-year old IIM tradition, wherein earlier no more than 8-10 % of the classroom were women. This game changing process in turn signalled a major shift across women representation not only in B-Schools but also businesses. With this survey, we attempt to go a step further to decode and give a voice to the women from IIMs who continue to challenge the stereotypes and break new grounds. The woman of today only demands equal opportunities, it is their time to lead and shine.”
The survey was led by alumna and board member Ms Uma Kasoji who added “Bridging the gender gap in leadership requires a conscious investment in terms of time, effort and funding. When asked to share suggestions on how organizations could bridge the gender gap, respondents said that sponsored leadership programs, mentoring and sponsorship were key. Organizations need to invest in growth of women professionals through structured programs. Only then, can they effectively address the gender gap”.
Gender stereotyping and bias emerged as key factors hindering progress of women professionals. 58% of the respondents said they encountered bias at the workplace. The most commonly encountered biases are ‘Prove it again’ and ‘The Tightrope’. 26% encountered the ‘Prove it Again’ bias where women are held to a higher standard than men and must continually prove themselves. Women are promoted on performance, while men are promoted on potential. 23% encountered ‘The Tightrope’ bias where professional women are seen as too weak or too assertive — and in response, must try to balance between the two. Elimination of unconscious bias is among the most valued Diversity and Inclusion initiatives.
The dearth of women in leadership was starkly evident with 61% saying that female representation in their organizations’ top leadership tier was insignificant and that they need more role models to look up to. The lack of female role models made it to the top 3 challenges, along with lack of mentorship and lack of strong professional networks and allies.
In keeping with the current global situation, the survey included questions on the post pandemic work scenario. 81% of the respondents said they prefer to work from home atleast partially even post the pandemic. When questioned on how organizations can make the post-pandemic work environment more conducive, respondents said that apart from safety and hygiene, there was a pressing need to set expectations around remote work. In order to ensure that remote working does not result in burn out, the ask is for organizations to enforce strict adherence to work hours and train managers on how to manage a remote work force effectively.
In terms of dream companies, Google, Amazon and McKinsey held the fort from last year, with Tesla and Unilever being new entrants to the list.
Indra Nooyi and Kiran Shaw Mazumdar emerged as the most admired women leaders, with quite a few respondents expressing pride and solidarity with Indra Nooyi being a fellow IIM alumna.