Startups Vs Corporates: Indian Women's Drive Surpasses Men's

Despite strides towards inclusivity, challenges persist, emphasising the need for targeted interventions. Insights from KPMG and WISER reports, highlighting disparities and proposing actionable solutions to empower women for leadership success.

Manoj Singh
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Women in leadership

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Indian Women's Leadership Goals: A Startup-Corporate Comparison

Gender equality continues to be a prevalent topic, not only within the Indian corporate realm but also in the relatively smaller domain of the Indian Startup Ecosystem'. Two distinct studies, shedding light on the role of women in leadership positions within both sectors, have unveiled intriguing insights into the presence of women in the C-suite. The Udaiti Foundation's Women in Startup Ecosystem Report (WISER), along with KPMG's Women Leadership in Corporate India 2024 report, have unearthed compelling facts surrounding this topic.

Do Women Have Greater Aspirations Than Men?

The KPMG report reveals that over 85 percent of women professionals aim for executive or C-suite positions in corporate India, compared to 83 percent of men with similar aspirations, indicating stronger ambition among women.

However, 56 percent of organizations have a modest representation of women in leadership, highlighting the need for enhanced diversity efforts. While 23 percent have achieved balanced gender distribution in leadership and 12 percent have surpassed the 50 percent mark, 49 percent are yet to achieve diversity at the CEO/CXO level.

Additionally, less than 30 percent of women hired at entry-level positions ascend to leadership roles, emphasizing the need for targeted interventions. Despite women's stronger aspirations for leadership, challenges persist, with only 58 percent feeling that current leadership development programs effectively address their needs.

Do Women Experience Greater Growth in Startups Than in Corporations?

Leadership development programs are crucial for startups as well. The inaugural and comprehensive research report by Women in Startup Ecosystem (WISER) sheds light on gender diversity within India's startup landscape.

Its primary aim is to equip key stakeholders with relevant data and actionable insights to propel progress towards gender equality. 

Findings from over 200 Indian startups indicate a growing integration of inclusion in their organizational culture, providing women with accelerated career paths, influential roles, and enhanced flexibility. Interestingly, startups led by female founders lead in gender diversity, with 2.5 times more women in senior positions. Despite these advancements, challenges persist, with women facing slower career progression compared to men. To overcome this, startups need to establish transparent gender objectives and foster an inclusive environment. By capitalising on their early momentum, startups hold the potential to generate Two Million New Job opportunities for women by 2030.

Navigating Gender Aspirations: Insights from KPMG Research

KPMG's research data highlights a gender aspiration disparity, indicating a shift towards greater gender equality in the workplace, particularly among women. This presents an opportunity for organizations to foster more women-led teams and businesses, as evidenced by the significant number of women aspiring to executive and C-suite positions.

However, achieving true parity in leadership requires ongoing support and opportunities for women, as they still face barriers such as family responsibilities and gender biases. While there has been a decrease in the dropout rate among women in some organizations, mid-career dropouts persist, influenced by factors like family responsibilities and work culture. Addressing these challenges is crucial for retaining and advancing women in leadership roles.

Additionally, while many believe women are satisfied with existing leadership development interventions, there is room for improvement, with only 58 percent feeling that current programs effectively address their challenges. This highlights the need for more targeted and comprehensive approaches to support women professionals.

How Startups and Corporate India Can Empower Women for Growth

While Corporate India and the Indian Startup Ecosystem have made strides in inclusiveness and women empowerment, there's still work to be done to achieve true gender equality. Responsibility falls not only on leadership but also on women themselves to overcome barriers and be competitive. Insights from the KPMG report offer guidance for corporate leaders, startup founders, and entrepreneurs to harness the power of women in their organizations.

Organizations can train managers to understand the unique challenges women face in leadership development and hold them accountable for actively supporting women's growth. Implementing formal mentorship programs pairs women with experienced leaders, providing guidance, support, and advocacy for their advancement. Defining mandates for women's representation in leadership positions through initiatives like women-only recruitment drives and double referral bonuses can bolster gender diversity at the top levels.

Fostering an environment where women leaders support and guide other aspiring women fosters a culture of collaboration and empowerment. Providing shadowing opportunities for women in leadership positions allows them to gain valuable experience and insights, preparing them for success. 

By implementing these initiatives, organisations both corporates and Startups can create an inclusive environment that empowers women to thrive in leadership roles.

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