Women at the top of the corporate ladder in India enjoy far more pay parity vis-à-vis their male counterparts than is the case in some advanced economies.

An analysis of listed entities reveals that of the top 500 companies, nearly 20 have women in leadership positions, including CEOs and Managing Directors. And across sectors, comparing companies of similar standing, women leaders earn about as much or more than men (see graphic). Purvi Sheth, CEO of Shilputsi Consultants, says: “When it comes to appointing women as CEOs or on the board, there is no gender disparity in compensation. Their competence and their skill sets are what matter.”

An HR Director at a consulting firm said on condition of anonymity: “Given talent, firms are willing to invest irrespective of gender.”

Debabrat Mishra, Senior Client Partner at HR consulting firm Korn Ferry Hay Group, adds, “There are strong stereotypes that suggest women get paid less because there are fewer women than men in CXO roles and on the board. The best boards are those that reflect diversity in terms of culture, gender, age group, domain and geography.” So, if there is pay parity at the top, why do very few women break the glass ceiling in organisations in India?

Parag Pandey, Founder of Raining Grey, an HR consulting firm, reasons: “It is all about the leaking gender pipeline. Until graduation, the gender ratio is almost equal, but it declines to 37:63 when girls drop out from higher education. And even among working women, there are dropouts after marriage. Women from well-off homes often pursue their hobbies even if they are qualified to take up positions of workplace responsibility, bringing the ratio further down to 18:82 at the middle management level, and even lower at the top management.”

So, how does a boardroom treat women?

Usha Kiran Rai, independent director at India Tourism Development Corporation, says, “They do listen to what we say and also provide all the information we seek. One does not feel left out. Earlier, I was an independent director with Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd. Women employees there had certain concerns, which they could discuss only with a woman. When it was brought to my notice, I got the issues sorted out immediately,” says Rai.

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