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Mind the differing views on equality

3-minute read

March 3, 2022

Closing it would boost workforce ambition and empowerment

Women have made significant contribution towards India’s IT/ITeS services industry’s growth. A March 2020 NASSCOM report ”India’s Tech Industry: Women For The Techade” states that women constitute 35 percent of India’s technology industry; roughly one for every three male professionals. While the percentage is encouraging, a further push in increasing their representation will not just benefit the industry but also the socio-economic development of our country.

A lot of ink has been shed on how the pandemic has exacerbated women’s decline in workforce participation. In light of this, as well as the emerging opportunities that exponential technologies will unleash, corporate leaders should fast-track gender equality initiatives. As a first step towards this, it is important to understand that a significant gap exists between the way they (leaders) and their employees view progress toward equality in their organizations. According to our research, two thirds of leaders (68%) feel they create empowering environments where people have a sense of belonging, yet just one third (36%) of employees agree. Additionally, the proportion of employees who do not feel included in their organizations is 10x higher than leaders believe (20% vs 2%, respectively).

Creating an inclusive organization where women can thrive must be at the top of the CEO’s agenda. If not, the talent gap will only continue to grow. Data from our Better to Belong research pointed to how women’s experiences in the workplace differ, and how to drive belonging so that women and organizations can both thrive. We found that women are significantly less Net Better Off (NBO) and report less belonging than employees overall, like not feeling respected by peers and not having a senior leader help advance their careers. When leaders support women during moments that matter—onboarding, rewards, transferring, life events, leaving—and support them every day, they leave them NBO. When women feel NBO at work, their potential can be maximized by 4.7x.

Leaders have a huge opportunity to increase women’s potential. When they get the traditional moments that matter right, they can drive up NBO by 3.6x. When day-to-day experiences are maximized, they can drive up NBO by almost 5x. In the broader context of the workforce, when companies leave people NBO, research indicates an increase in trust, increase in job satisfaction, and a rise in belief that the organization is a great place to work. It is important for leaders to prioritize and take action to accelerate true equality for all in their organizations.

Accelerating equality for all, in fact, would be a socio-economic catalyst and the prerogative is upon individuals, organizations as well as government agencies to expedite this. This is possibly the most appropriate time for more women to be in this industry as we are all undergoing a sudden and unexpected transformation, driven by digital technologies. Accenture studies have shown that higher digital fluency results in increased workplace gender equality, resulting in benefits for the society and the economy as a whole. The research also suggests that if governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, we could reach gender equality in the workplace by 2040 in developed countries and by 2060 in developing countries.

More importantly, as my global colleague Barbara Harvey had pointed out in her blog, the technology industry needs women now, more than ever: to meet the demand for talent; to ensure that new products and services are designed to work for all of us (for example, a health app designed by a large consumer technology firm left out a menstrual or reproductive cycle tracker—something that women have been doing “analog” (counting on a calendar) since time immemorial. Once this was pointed out, the company almost immediately rectified the situation, but the fact remains that the needs of women were not considered in the original design. Lastly, diversity and inclusion drives innovation (in more diverse, inclusive workplaces people are 11 times more likely to drive innovation than in less diverse and inclusive workplaces).

According to World Bank estimates, India has one of the lowest female labour force participation rates in the world. Less than a third of women – defined in the report as 15 or older – are working or actively looking for a job. The female labour participation rate in India had fallen to 20.3% in 2019 from more than 26% in 2005, according to World Bank estimates, compared with 30.5% in neighbouring Bangladesh and 33.7% in Sri Lanka. So what can be done?

I would urge leaders across India Inc., to consider three steps towards accelerating equality:

Bold leadership

By establishing targets, and making leaders accountable. Accenture had made a bold public commitment in 2017 to building a 50:50 workforce by 2025 and ensuring stronger representation of women in leadership. Today, it is a matter of pride that women represent over 45% of our workforce in India and close to 25% of our MDs. And, 49% of our new hires are women. Further, our Advanced Technology Centers in India (ATCI) launched a 12-week inclusive internship program to provide opportunities to build entry-level technology careers to women from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and Persons with Disabilities. We are seeing over 92 percent conversion of interns into full time employment through this program.

Comprehensive action

Having policies that work for all us, and focusing on parents rather than just mothers. Let me share two examples here:

  • Caregivers leave: We were one of the first in India to move away from gender binaries; focusing on caregivers rather than gender or marital status.
  • Returning Mothers Program: Coaching and staffing support from experienced women executives to successfully transition new mothers from maternity, back to successful careers. We saw a 98% return to work in 2021.

Empowering people

Respecting employees, treating them as individuals and encouraging individuality while giving them autonomy – some flexibility and control – over where, when and how they work. Here again, let me explain with two examples:

  • Vahiini Network: A platform that offers women professionals in India unparalleled opportunities to learn, share, empower and enable each other’s personal and professional growth.
  • Career & Professional Development for Women: This includes on-the-job learning, rotational assignments, coaching & mentoring, skill building sessions, career intentionality workshops for women across all career levels.

Making diversity and inclusion a priority will be a winning strategy for companies and for the strength of the economy at large.


Ruhi Ranjan

Senior Managing Director, Lead – Accenture EMEA Market Delivery at Advanced Technology Centers in India and Sponsor – Inclusion & Diversity, Accenture in India