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‘Men and Women Expect the Same from Their Careers’
With over 80,000 women employees that make up 35 percent of the workforce, Accenture is one of the largest employers of women in the technology industry. Mr. Manoj Biswas, lead – human resources, Accenture India, talks to Panchalee Thakur about the enablers and hurdlers for women professionals today.
A large number of women join the workforce in India every year but not many move to leadership roles. Why?

Stereotypes and preconceptions of women’s roles are top barriers to women’s career advancement. Research studies have revealed a range of overlapping structural, institutional, and attitudinal factors responsible for women’s lack of advancement to the upper echelons of organizations. Some of these factors are:

Salary disparities still exist between men and women employees. Are companies doing enough to correct that?

Despite major inroads that working women have made in recent times, they are still paid less than men. It is often attributed to salary negotiation skills. Women are often perceived as less aggressive and less likely to question salary structures than men. They are also less likely to ask for a promotion. These arguments are corroborated in a recent Accenture study, The Path Forward. The study found that 58 percent women as compared to 68 percent men have asked for a raise. A recent LinkedIn study of 400 professionals in India showed that while 37 percent of male respondents felt negotiating for their salaries before taking up jobs was fine, only 26 percent of women felt the same. Women must become more aggressive and be proactive in asking for a promotion or a better salary.

What do organizations need to do to make the workplace more conducive for women?

Organizations must understand that men and women expect the same from their careers. Both seek work-life continuity, transparency in policies, and sufficient opportunities for growth, among other things. However, in order to empower women in their career progression, organizations must realize the importance of offering women-friendly policies, such as flexi-timings, work-from-home, and extended maternity leave that help women balance their professional commitments with personal priorities. Organizations must also institutionalize offline and online platforms where women can speak about their issues openly and get support from their co-workers (both men and women) to manage work-life priorities.

Please give us some key insights from The Path Forward survey.

Accenture conducted its global research study, The Path Forward, for release on International Women’s Day to gain insights into behaviors and attitudes regarding women’s careers. The research explores career satisfaction levels, aspirations, and factors for career advancement. It examines the factors that may hold professionals back from progressing in their careers. It seeks to better understand the support and programs companies provide that attract, develop, and retain high-performing employees.

The research found that in India a greater number of women (40%) are satisfied with their current job and are not looking for new job opportunities as compared to men (28%). The research further reveals that 80 percent of the respondents here stayed at their jobs longer than they may have otherwise because of a flexible work arrangement. Family responsibility is the most commonly cited reason to work a flexible work schedule. You can access the report at http://www.accenture.com/us-en/company/people/women/Pages/accentures-women-research.aspx

What programs do you run in the company to improve women’s participation at various levels?

At Accenture, we offer our women employees capability development opportunities to build leadership skills and other support systems such as childcare, networking, mentoring, and sponsorship. We also invest in sensitizing our people regarding the importance of embracing diversity and inclusion in their teams and interactions with other people in the organization. Some of our initiatives are Women Leadership Development Program, Women’s Mentoring Programs, Vaahini – a cross-entity networking forum, Virtual Learning courses, and Maternity Returners Program.

(Mr. Manoj Biswas has been with Accenture since 2007 in various HR leadership roles. He started his career with the Indian Armed forces and served as a major in the artillery regiment for six years, including operations in Punjab and Siachin, the world’s highest battlefield. He started his corporate life 15 years ago.)
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