Gender disparity at the workplace is a fact in India. While more and more employers in the organised sectors are encouraging women to join the workforce and stay on the job, gender equality at workplace is yet to go mainstream.The fourth edition of the Fortune India Most Powerful Women (MPW) summit in Mumbai on November 26 celebrated women power in India Inc with a panel of seasoned entrepreneurs, corporates and an investor who decided to deep-dive into the state of women empowerment and engagement at Indian workplaces.

The four-member panel—comprising Manish Sabharwal, chairman and co-founder, TeamLease Services and Central Board Director, Reserve Bank of India; Ashu Suyash, MD and CEO, Crisil; Meena Ganesh, MD and CEO, Portea Medical; and Padmaja Ruparel, co-founder and president, Indian Angel Network—spoke on the state of women empowerment and engagement at Indian workplaces. Is it cutting across management levels and how democratic is women empowerment today?

“I feel the infrastructure of opportunity is the better thing to focus on: financialisation, urbanisation, industrialisation. human capital and formalisation. Today there is a lot of action in the formal sector,” said Sabharwal

According to a 2017 World Bank report India ranked 120 out of 131 countries when it came to female participation in the workforce.

Talking about pay gap at workplaces, Suyash pointed out that the fundamental issue around women pay is lack of salary negotiation. “And that stems from confidence issue. A lot of women who work come from need therefore the job becomes more important than all that comes with it.”

Do sabbaticals work differently for men and women, though? Marriage and motherhood can almost be a certain death knell for a woman’s career. But is the notion changing? Maternity, sabbaticals and flexi-hours: generally data says that women use them more at workplaces. “A lot companies make a show of saying that it is not just for women. It is gender neutral, but it goes against women during the appraisal time. There is not enough focus on meritocracy,” added Suyash.

Though companies are taking conscious steps to retain women employees and having more women in leadership roles, the country has seen little progress in the matter. This is particularly significant in the context of the technology sector as it is the second largest employer of women after agriculture in India. According to Nasscom’s ‘Women and IT Scorecard – India 2018’ report, the number of direct employees working in this industry stood at 3.97 million, India’s largest private sector employer.

How is the scene in the startup world? Are we seeing enough women entrepreneurs in the ecosystem? Meena feels not yet.  “Clearly there are not enough women entrepreneurs. There is no doubt about that. No survey or poll is required for that. You walk into a product conclave at Nasscom and you have to look far and wide to spot a woman entrepreneur,” said Meena at a packed house attended by entrepreneurs, corporate executives and business honchos. The session was moderated by Aveek Datta, senior associate editor, Fortune India.

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