Two thousand and eighteen was a landmark year for women around the globe as they joined hands to make their voices heard through the #MeToo movement. In India too, stories of sexual harassment and discrimination at the workplace surfaced across sectors and scales of organisations. As gender dynamics take a new turn in our country with the modern Indian, millennial woman taking charge and asking for equal opportunity with equal rewards, the startup sector is ready to take the lead.
Mumbai-based fashion e-commerce portal Fynd is inviting more women engineers to join its workforce. The Google-funded company plans to conduct special recruitment drives for women engineers in metro cities, is mending existing gender pay gaps within its structure and is going one step further to hike the salaries of its women employees to 10 percent more than their male counterparts. While Fynd’s male employees may find this step a tad too much and diversity experts may beg to differ on this ‘sop strategy’ to motivate women, the four-year-old company is certain that one powerful incentive in this direction right now will lead to a much more diverse, inclusive and balanced workforce in the future. “We made this decision open to questions from the whole team. This is not a competition but a way to make the company more attractive to diverse mindsets and even male employees were on board,” says Fynd co-founder Harsh Shah.
Large corporations the world over have for many years now been taking steps towards achieving gender parity and setting benchmarks for new-age startups. On women’s day this year, the world’s largest food and beverage company Nestle launched an ambitious plan for gender balance acceleration with the belief that this gender-balanced workforce will in future help boost innovation and performance and address customer needs better. “It is simply the right thing to do. We are setting measurable goals to hold ourselves accountable. We know that improving gender balance will lead to better decisions, stronger innovation and higher employee satisfaction,” said Nestle CEO Mark Schneider at the time of launching the initiative.
Dismal stats for women at work
According to the recent Monster Salary Index Survey, women in India earn 19 percent less than men – meaning a woman earns Rs 196.3 for the same job that pays a man Rs 242.49. This difference widens at higher skill levels with the gap touching 20 percent for skilled women and 30 percent for highly skilled jobs. The World Economic Forum ranks India at a dismal 108 out of 149 countries on its Global Gender Gap Index and says that it will take a whopping 202 years to close the gender pay gap, the world over.
Startup India for women
But many Indian startups wish to set this record straight with consistent efforts over time and have begun doing their bit. Last month, online marketplace Droom was looking to fill 100 management vacancies with atleast 60 percent women. It also announced plans for hiring female technicians with basic educational qualifications or vocational training, in a bid to open up non-conventional career opportunities for women.
The original poster boy (or rather poster girl!) of Indian startups – Flipkart, is well known for keeping gender parity high on the company’s agenda through an internal diversity and inclusion charter, promoting women in tech and creating a gender-neutral workforce that is chosen and rewarded only on merit. A few months ago, it went beyond endorsing gender equality just internally to launching an emotional digital ad film that breaks gender stereotypes and encourages parents to raise their children as ‘GenE’ or Generation of Equals. With over 33 million views on YouTube, the campaign’s ad film has tugged at the consumer’s heartstrings with its message -- ‘A generation that’s treated equally today, will treat each other equally tomorrow’ – proving that diversity is of course good within offices and homes but perhaps it’s good for business and brand building too.
Meanwhile, placing women in relevant and best suited jobs as well as promoting inclusivity within India Inc. has also become a niche business opportunity for many startups. Sheroes, JobsForHer, HerSecondInnings, Avtar I-Win are some of the players that are connecting women with opportunities to match their talent and experience while also creating robust women-only communities and educating recruiters about the advantages of having women on the workforce.
She’s worth it
In India the top 10 companies that are gender-inclusive and bridging the inequality gap include the likes of Accenture, TCS, Tech Mahindra, EY and others. But soon this list will not be limited to large scale companies. Today, corporate organisations of all scales, including startups, are increasingly recognising the worth of women and the business sense in hiring them. Independent industry reports suggest that at the national level, increasing women’s labour force participation by 10 percent can add an astounding $770 billion to India’s GDP by 2025 and if women around the world were to actually achieve their full potential the global economy would be richer by $12 Trillion!
While every single woman in India (much less the world) is unlikely to see equal pay for equal work in this lifetime, it is indeed heartening to see young, new-age entrepreneurs take cognizance of larger social responsibilities. As India dreams of becoming a global startup hub, culture and environment will play a huge role in attracting the right kind of talent and we can only hope that talented women from across the globe will look our way for opportunities and recognise India to be a level-playing field for all genders. Till then, we will of course continue to mind the gap!
Mridu Bhandari is Editor – Special Projects at Network 18. One of India’s youngest Ramnath Goenka Awardees in 2007 for her work on rural development, Mridu today dabbles in many subjects ranging from entrepreneurship, education and emerging technologies to healthcare, brand stories and personal finance. On most weekends, she can be found anchoring special programmes on Network 18 news channels.
First Published: IST