More women in corporate jobs, but what about leadership roles in big private sector organisations

Let’s start with a hard fact. Women’s participation in an organisation grows as the company grows, but their chances of making it to leadership positions also diminish as the company becomes bigger. Smaller organisations are better in empowering women.

This is exactly what a recent study found.

“As organisation size increases, overall women’s representation increases, but as the employee size grows, there is a fall in the representation of women in key management positions,” according to Udaiti Foundation’s report released on Tuesday. “This shows that large corporations can attract women talent at the early career stage, but women find it difficult to break the glass ceiling and move up the ladder,” it says.

Smaller organisations, the report says, provide a more enabling environment for women employees to become leaders.

A lot of lip service is paid to empowering women to lead organisations. If anecdotes are anything to go by, one would believe that more women are now in leadership positions in top companies. And the numbers are going up exponentially. Numbers, however, tell a very different story.

That is what numbers do. They make us see the truth that we tend to gloss over.


“Rhetoric alone will not be enough to drive gender equality in corporate India. We need sharp baseline data, and top leadership accountability to drive meaningful outcomes and lasting change,” Naina Lal Kidwai, Former Group Head HSBC India and former Ficci president, said.

A platform with data of 2,000 Indian companies from diverse sectors, focusing on women’s participation in them was launched on Tuesday (December 12). Udaiti’s ‘Close the Gender Gap Platform’ provides year-wise trends of women in leadership roles and offers an unparalleled perspective on gender representation and policies.

Data shows that information technology, textiles and consumer services are the top three sectors that employ the most number of women employees. They are followed by financial services and healthcare.

The platform sheds light on gender dynamics within private sector organisations that might help in framing policies and taking corrective measures to become a more gender-inclusive company.

“We have been seeing several initiatives to promote women employees and entrepreneurs. But a look at the numbers show something is wrong. The numbers tell a very different story,” Udaiti Foundation CEO Pooja Sharma Goyal told IndiaToday.In.

Explaining the need for the data platform, Sharma said, “Unless you get evidence, you can’t push for change in policy. To make change happen on the ground, you need data-backed evidence.”


Udaiti Foundation’s report sheds light on the status of women in India’s private companies. Though women’s participation has gone up a tad, their presence in leadership roles is dismal.

The government and markets regulator has made it mandatory for certain companies to have at least one woman on its board of directors. While companies are following this rule, the willingness to get more women on the board is lacking.

Forty-three per cent of companies report one mandatory female board member, but the number plunges to just 11 per cent when it comes to organisations with two women on the board of directors, according to the Udaiti Foundation report. “This underscores the need for greater commitments for gender inclusion in leadership and beyond,” the report says.

The Udaiti Foundation report says that more women are engaged as a company grows in size. However, bigger companies fail to provide leadership roles to women. On the contrary, smaller organisations are proving to be better when it comes to empowering women and offering them leadership roles.

How the number of women in key management positions decreases as the count of employees at a company increases. (Source: Udaiti Foundation)

To a question from IndiaToday.In, Naina Lal Kidwai explains the bottleneck in India Inc when it comes to women rising to leadership positions.

“The bottleneck is mainly in the minds of decision makers and the leadership of the organisation in their belief that women can’t manage the job. Women too are often their own glass ceiling as they see obstructions where they don’t exist,” says Kidwai.

The veteran banker says that with factories getting more capital-intensive and more robotics-dependent, India has started seeing more women supervisors and workers.

Citing her investment and corporate banking journey from Grindlays Bank to HSBC India, Naina Lal Kidwai says, “Women are more tentative about their next moves and don’t negotiate sufficiently. Progressive organisations should compensate for this by drawing women out of their shells even as women too recognise this failing and step up their engagement.”


Udaiti Foundation’s Pooja Sharma Goyal says more women in leadership roles will help boost women’s participation in the workforce. She says there is evidence to prove that a gender-diverse organisation provides better work culture, has lower levels of attrition, and pays better dividends to its shareholders.

“The formal sector has witnessed a commendable 3 per cent surge in women’s representation over the last 3 years, led by healthcare and services sector with an outstanding 5 per cent increase,” according to the report.

Top 10 industries in India in terms of women workers’ participation. (Source: Udaiti Foundation)

Pooja Sharma Goyal says there is overall 28 per cent female labourforce participation in India and the goal is to take that to 50 per cent.

The focus is on the private sector as a lot of jobs are created here.

Udaiti Foundation is trying to push for more women’s participation and more women in leadership roles by providing data-backed evidence to companies to show how women-driven companies are successful. Numbers are a key partner in this battle for workplace gender parity.

Published On:

Dec 14, 2023

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