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Big Four Striving to Close Gender Gap in India | Pooja Jalan

Surprised Indian Business woman.
Surprised Indian Business woman.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. 

Deloitte, too, has introduced a programme to encourage mid-level woman managers to take up leadership positions, involving a development programme on mentoring, developing leadership skills and the opportunity to interact with successful woman leaders. 

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. 
While I agree that part of the problem may be sociological, I feel that these initiatives could help bring about a huge change in this area in the years to come. So far, women have not had the opportunity to be able to be committed to their work and carry out familial responsibilities at the same time without external help in India, but in the west it is very common for women to work from home or take a few years off from work when the need arises. 

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.

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