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India Inc yet to say Yahoo to expecting mothers as CEO


Updated: July 22, 2012, 11:57 AM IST
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India Inc yet to say Yahoo to expecting mothers as CEO
According to a study by Catalyst, women's workforce participation is on the rise in India.

New Delhi: Yahoo's decision to hire 37-year-old and soon-to-be mother Marissa Mayer as its new CEO is being hailed as one of the most inspiring top-job stories worldwide, but experts do not expect an encore in India anytime soon.

While many women business leaders are breaking the glass ceiling to reach the corner-room CEO office in the country and the hiring policies here are not as such regressive, the companies would rather wait for a few months, than choosing a pregnant lady for the top job, experts say.

For that matter, a case similar to Marissa Mayer has hardly been seen even in the western world so far, point out the experts at various executive search firms.

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While pregnancy as such is no disqualification, Mayer's appointment has been a rare situation as not many women become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company at the age of 37 and that too while making a career move during pregnancy.

There have been cases when women CEOs have managed the business while rearing a child, such as in case of Yahoo's own former CEO Carol Bartz, but it is uncommon for a pregnant or mother of a newborn kid to do so.

Executive talent management firm EMA Partners International's Managing Partner (Asia Emerging Markets) K Sudarshan said: "It is not right to rule it out but it is very difficult to see some thing like this in India... They may postpone the decision. They may still hire but they might
postpone the appointment."

However, Mayer's appointment, that too at a company of the size and stature of Yahoo!, may lead to many other companies opening up to such an idea.

Global HR solutions provider Randstad's India Director Hastha Krishnan said that such instances are rare in the Indian context, as most women reach the top levels way past their child-rearing days.

"There are no regressive policies in Indian organisations against hiring women in leadership roles. (But) I believe that companies will wait if they see value in bringing the person on board," Krishnan said.

There are many instances of women being at the helm of affairs in corporate India spread across diverse sectors.

The examples include Chanda Kochhar of ICICI Bank, Kiran M Shaw (Biocon), Shobhana Bhartia (HT Media), Shikha Sharma (Axis Bank), Naina Lal Kidwai (HSBC India), Kalpana Morparia (JP Morgan India), Neelam Dhawan (Hewlett-Packard India), Seema Modi (Heinz India), Prabha Parameswaran (Colgate
Palmolive India), Sangeeta Pendurkar (Kellogg India) and Vinita Bali (Britannia), among others.

EMA Partners International's Sudarshan said, not more than 15 per cent of the top 250 companies in India have women at the helm of the affairs.

According to Catalyst, an organisation that tracks women's advancement in the workplace, only four per cent of Fortune 500 chiefs are women.

"... with 96 per cent of positions still held by men, we look to additional progress in tapping talented women for top leadership and hope that, soon, there will no longer be a need to count them," Catalyst President & CEO Ilene H Lang said.

Mayer, who also happens to be on the board of retail giant Wal-Mart, is said to have informed the Yahoo board about her pregnancy, but the directors decided to focus only on her professional achievements and decided to select her.

According to a study by Catalyst, women's workforce participation is on the rise in India and women are just as ambitious as men. Regardless of the gender, future leaders in India have high career aspirations and also value having a good fit between work and their personal lives in India.

However, the research noted that more Indian women feel that lack of workplace flexibility is a career obstacle, when compared to the men.

It is important to develop work-life solutions as they can help improve a company's ability to recruit, develop, and retain promising employees, enhancing workplace performance and, potentially, strengthening competitive advantage, Catalyst report said.

First Published: July 22, 2012, 11:57 AM IST
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