Monday, May 18, 2009

Women in Indian business

Nasscom in conjunction with Mercer Consulting has published a report on Gender Inclusivity in India. According to press reports on this study, India has more working women than any other country in the world. 30% -35% of the overall 400 million workforce is women.

Nasscom sites ( has a link to the report. Click ( for a press report on the study. There are some blithe conclusions that the IT and BPO industry are responsible for the high proportion of women in the workforce in some way.

I haven’t read the original report (I am not paying $60 for this), but I am reacting to the press reports.

Balderdash. Indian corporate world is a male chauvinist pig. Period.

I’ve worked in a number of places. Nowhere have I seen a more women unfriendly business environment than in India, although things are changing

* Any employee is considered worth his salt only if he slogs like a maniac. Its often said that the office begins only after closing time. Men are stupid enough to be willing to slog meaninglessly. Women have more sense and balance. So they aren’t “good workers”

* Career breaks are considered sacrilege in India. You are expected to commence work when you are out of the cradle and toil ceaselessly at the office till your grave beckons. When the child comes, women are forced to step off – and its difficult to get in again

* Working part time or from home is considered “not working”. How is a woman with a child then expected to work, especially since our precious husband believes that lifting a finger to raise a child is beneath his manhood.

* You are expected to be mobile across the country, and increasingly the world. So, if a husband gets moved to another place, guess what happens to the wife ?

* The working environment is many corporates is all aggro. Testosterone flows like water. Either a woman has to inject testosterone into herself or else sit in the background.

Sure this is a one sided rant and I am exaggerating to make a point. But I could not believe the report of this study. I simply cannot believe that India is anywhere near being a women friendly workplace – it cannot be the largest employer of women by a long stretch even including agricultural labour, construction workers etc.

And the IT/BPO industry is no saint. Yes, its better than other sectors, but its nowhere near world class in employing women. I was in a BPO in India. Try as we might, the proportion of women did not cross 30%. I then was in a BPO in China. The proportion of men did not cross 30%.

By the way, the press report is telling in a way. The words are about India. The photos are all Chinese !