Commemorating 20 years of excellence as India leading business news channel, CNBC-TV18 hosted its first edition of 'Leadership Collective’, in partnership with Standard Chartered, in Bengaluru on December 11, 2019. The event also marked the run-up to CNBC-TV18’s 15th edition of ‘India Business Leaders Awards’.
The invite-only, exclusive gathering of eminent industry veterans deliberated on the current state of the economy and what it would take to make India an economic success with equitable growth.
Delivering the keynote address for the evening, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, CMD of Biocon, emphasised the impetus that facilitating gender equality in India could bring to the larger mission of making India a $5 trillion economy.
Setting the context, she pointed out that the theme for the evening was collective leadership and this was the very value that would enable India to achieve its goal of becoming a $5-trillion economy. At the same time, she cautioned, “We all know that there are a number of gaps and divisive forces that are not allowing us to get there. These are a skill deficit, a gender divide, a digital divide and an economic divide. So, we must ensure that we are plugging all these gaps and deficits.”
Being a successful woman entrepreneur who has broken the proverbial glass ceiling and made it to every notable list of powerful women of the world, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw chose to champion the cause of sustainable progress by focusing on the importance of true inclusion of women in the workplace.
“The gender divide is a very important aspect of the economy, society and country; we ought to address and fix it,” she suggested.
She presented her view of the gender divide in four basic buckets - at a macro level, the corporate level, in rural India and in the start-up eco-system. And then, she also reviewed the role and progress of women in her industry too.
She pointed out that at a macro level, over half of the work done by women is unpaid for and almost all of it is informal and unprotected. The gender pay gap is also large at 34 percent and nearly half of India’s women do not have a savings account for their own use. As a result of all this, at 17 percent, India has a low share of contribution of women to GDP compared to the global average of 37 percent.
Coming to corporate India, she expressed that despite all the talk around gender diversity and affirmative action, corporate India has simply failed to bring more women into leadership positions in recent times. Since 2014, the proportion of women in leadership positions in corporate India has hovered around 3 percent and data shows that only 6 out of the top 158 listed companies in India have women at the head. “Yet there is very compelling data to show why we should have gender equality in the corporate world,” she advised. “Women CEOs in Fortune 1000 companies drove three times the return as SP 500 enterprises which are run predominantly by men and companies with more female executives in decision making positions continue to generate stronger market returns and superior profits. In short, the link between gender diversity and better results is undeniable.”
Moving on to rural India, she sadly revealed that despite the very strong action by the government, to reserve 33 percent of positions in Panchayati Rajs for women Sarpanches, most women hold the post only on paper. “There has to be a far greater focus on how we enable and empower women in a rightful way, financially include them and enable them to take on more responsibility,” she suggested.
The start-up universe was the only area where she saw some positive signs. “It is very promising and encouraging to note that out of 6,300 start-ups in India, recently, nearly 2500 have women as founders or directors or partners,” she revealed, also acknowledging that unconscious biases, low confidence in business skills, difficult access to finance, lack of family support, are still headwinds which prevent more women from getting into the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
She went on to quote a McKenzie study which estimated that advancing women’s equality in India could boost its GDP by $0.7 trillion by 2025 and another study which showed that in India, measures to close the gender gap could lead to a 6.8 percentage gain in GDP.
“It’s very obvious that gender inclusion is going to be a very important strategy for driving our GDP and economic growth and really making sure that we have true inclusive economic growth,” she concluded.