The Big Four – EY, KPMG, PwC and Deloitte – are making moves in order to reduce the gender inequality in India and retain more woman staff, especially higher up in the ranks.
While almost half of fresh recruits each year are women, only 35% stay on five years later, and 10 – 15% make it to the senior positions. In order to tackle this issue, these firms are introducing flexible working hours, work-from-home facilities, and breaks for up to three years for women to focus on family life if they so wish.
The human capital leader at PwC India, Jagjit Singh, emphasises the importance of having a gender balance as he believes, “It better utilises half of the human race’s intellect”, and, hence, allows for better decision making. He said they focus on hiring the best talent and ensure no gender bias comes in the way of that. In fact at PwC, 31% of employees are women, and only 8% of total senior staff are made up of women. Singh says that PwC is working towards increasing the number of women across the partnership. There has been some support from legislation as well, where the newly amended Companies Act 2013 requires there to be at least one woman director on the board.
In the past year, the Big Four have introduced several such policies. EY, for one, has come up with ‘My Life’ which includes flexible time arrangement, part-time working, telecommuting, extended maternity leave, work from home and adoption leave allowing women with family commitments to sustain progressive work-life balance and to pursue higher education or other short-term interests.
However, while all these moves are headed in a very positive direction, it is believed that the underlying problem is sociological and based on how women are treated in a family. Furthermore, working at the Big Four usually means a 12-hour working day which can encroach on familial responsibilities that women tend to have and, as a result, few continue working.
In India, people are of the opinion that women prefer flexible working hours and less work pressure but this is not necessarily true. Unfortunately, they are tied down with several other responsibilities and made to believe those come first and work second. These initiatives, therefore, will definitely help them find the balance and allow them to juggle work and other responsibilities more effectively. This in turn might boost motivation levels amongst women and in the years to come we might see a far greater female representation across the higher ranks.