Only 100 out of 2000 companies listed on National Stock Exchange have women CEOs, a study released on 'Pathways to Leadership for Women in Finance and Economics' by Mumbai based EdelGive Foundation says.

EdelGIve, an initiative of diversified financial services conglomerate, Edelweiss is a philanthropic fund manager and advisor between grant givers and credible NGOs.

The report highlights the slow progress in women's leadership roles in India. Along with extensive secondary research, the study has included in-depth interviews with 55 women professionals from the finance and economic sectors. The study also included academic institutions offering MBA courses in finance and economics, NGOs focused on women's economic empowerment, and women in senior finance roles across industries.

EdelGive states that 95% of the respondents were women in leadership roles and their insights point to the enduring challenge of gender disparity in women’s ascent to leadership positions in corporations.

However, finance is a notable sector for women's leadership, as even though only 11% of Indian companies have women as CEOs, 54% of these are in financial services, the study notes.

According to the study, some notable insights on barriers included a lack of investments for women in areas where their capacities need to be built. "The real barriers to women's attainment of leadership positions start early on in their lives. From the selection of academic subjects in school to the weight of caregiving responsibilities, and the persistent need to disprove entrenched stereotypes at work, women face a layered struggle. They must confront not only immediate challenges but also dismantle the longstanding disparities built over years. Therefore, it is crucial for workplaces to recognize the complexity of these barriers and actively engage in reducing their impact on women's path to leadership," says Vidya Shah, executive chairperson, EdelGive Foundation.

The study emphasizes the significant advantages women leaders bring, including pragmatic approaches, innovation, and a focus on ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) initiatives. Companies with diverse management teams report 19% higher innovation revenue. However, the current pace of change in women’s representation in corporate leadership – a mere 7.7% increase from 2014 – is insufficient for transformative impact, it points out.

Establishing a pipeline of women for leadership positions is critical for the growth of companies. The report serves as a vital guide in this endeavour. It emphasises the importance of diverse leadership perspectives and outlines strategies to nurture women employees. The report also tackles critical issues such as mid-management dropout rates and advocating for better back-to-work policies. "These recommendations are key to empowering women, ensuring a steady flow of skilled women leaders who are essential for fostering innovative and inclusive organisational growth," says Naghma Mulla, CEO, EdelGive Foundation.

The study has also proposed a series of measures to improve women participation including the need for adopting equitable policies for hiring and promotions, enforcing workplace safety laws, and implementing parent-friendly policies with effective grievance mechanisms and childcare support.

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