The number of women running Fortune 500 companies hit an all-time high of 37 this year. Yet, that was just 7.4% of the businesses on the list. In India, the number of women with executive powers at the helm of Fortune India 500 companies was 29 in 2019, again a dismal number.

While India does employ a fair share of women beyond C-Suites, the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it its own set of challenges. However, the lockdown seems to have led to more women in India joining the workforce, according to a recent LinkedIn study. The share of women being hired in India was at 30% in April, which shot up to 37% at the end of July, the second edition of LinkedIn’s ‘Labour Market Update’ has found.

This is in contrast with what happened in developed nations. “Our global analysis showed that the hiring of women in many developed countries followed a U-shaped trajectory in 2020, dipping in April before recovering in June and July,” it said in a release.

“In India, work from home has certainly boosted gender parity and emerged as a great equaliser in terms of gender diversity with increase in female representation across key sectors. The lockdown, which promoted acceptance of the work from home concept supported by flexible work hours, has emerged as an opportunity for women to rebuild their careers and start afresh,” said Pei Ying Chua, APAC lead economist, Economic Graph team at LinkedIn.

That is not the only bit of good news. Gender parity, too, improved across many sectors. But for the manufacturing sector, women’s representation across sectors rose during the lockdown and continued to go up. One reason why India fared better could be “the strong support from live-in help and grandparents, as well as more flexible working hours with remote working schemes”, which has allowed more women to enter the workforce despite schools and childcare facilities being closed during the lockdown, LinkedIn said.

According to LinkedIn, female representation grew by 8 percentage points across corporate services, education, healthcare, and media and communications, which already had high gender parity to begin with. “It is possible that these industries are inherently more family-friendly in terms of flexible hours and work arrangements, hence the challenges of having to juggle work and household responsibilities has led more females to join those industries,” the Microsoft-owned online professional network said in the release. In contrast, the increase was four percentage points for sectors such as consumer goods, finance, manufacturing and software and IT—which had lower gender parity to begin with.

The Labour Market Update analysis for July found that those with “advanced disruptive digital skills” fared better than those with basic digital skills during the pandemic. It also found that hiring had picked up by 25 percentage points by end-July, over June. But it cautioned that the “risks of a second wave of infections still remain, and further recovery may also be tempered by weak economic outlook”.

Coming back to the importance of gender parity , LinkedIn said it was important not to lose the progress made. “Now is the time for businesses to consider flexible hours, remote working and job sharing which can go a long way in supporting women and keeping them in the workforce,” said LinkedIn chief economist Karin Kimbrough, according to a post by the APAC lead economist.

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