Half the top listed companies employ less than 7% women

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Only twenty percent of all the permanent employees of the top listed companies of India are women. Men dominate the workplace in corporate India. Evidently, securing a place for women on the boards of listed companies by regulation has not helped in improving the share of women employees in companies.

SEBI regulations require that the board of directors of all listed companies should contain at least one woman. This regulation has been in force since October 2014.

As per SEBI’s Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements (LODR) companies need to disclose the gender-distribution of their permanent employees in their business responsibility report.

Statistics available from such listed companies provide stark evidence that the gender-distribution of employment in the most organised sector is quite skewed against women. And, if you go strictly by official statistics, the top listed companies are doing worse than the rest of the country in so far as gender-distribution of employment is concerned.

Here is why. According to the NSSO, female labour participation rate on a primary and secondary status basis for persons in the age group 15 to 59 years was 33 percent in 2011-12. In urban India this ratio falls to 22 percent. We would have expected corporate India to do much better than this. But, evidently, it does not.

We do not have many enterprise-level data sources that give us the distribution of employment by gender. The most recent enterprise-based data on employment released by the government for example, the EPFO data, does not provide gender-distribution. Disclosures based on SEBI’s disclosure requirements are therefore the only enterprise-wise data on employment by gender.

450 companies disclosed information on gender distribution of employment during the fiscal year 2016-17. In 2017-18, so far, we have noted such disclosure in 347 companies. When we combine these two, we find 509 unique companies that disclosed the gender-distribution of employment during either 2017-18 or 2016-17.

Using only the latest available information for each of these 509 companies we find that they employed a total of 5.6 million persons. Of these, only 70 percent or 4 million were permanent employees. The gender distribution is available for these 4 million employees. And, this distribution indicates that only 0.8 million of these 4 million (or 20 percent) were women.

The average share of women in employment of these companies at 20 percent is skewed by the larger companies that employ more-than the average proportion of women.

Tata Consultancy Services, the largest employer (0.4 million) in this set, employed 35 percent women. Infosys, the third largest employer in the set, employed 36 percent women. Tech Mahindra the sixth largest employer, employed 37 percent women.

State Bank of India that takes the place of the second highest employer, engaged 24 percent women.

The median proportion of women employees is much lower at 7.2 percent. This means that half the companies do not hire more than 7.2 percent women. This, perhaps, is a bigger reflection of the bias against women in employment even in large listed companies.

Further, the skewness in the distribution is a lot more stark than what even the median describes. Only a quarter of the companies in this set had a proportion of women employment greater than 18 percent. The mean was skewed away even from the top quartile. This shows that the IT companies listed above are among the very few companies that have a reasonable proportion of women employed. Only 10 percent of the companies had a women-employment proportion of over 31 percent. And these few companies have skewed the overall average to 20 percent.

Textiles, and in particular readymade garments companies, are the more intensive employers of women. Five of the top 10 major women-intensive employers were textiles companies. 81 percent of the 13,424 permanent employees of KPR Mills were women, 78 percent of the 18,801 permanent employees of Page Industries (a garments company) were women, 74 percent of the 23,003 permanent employees of Gokaldas Exports (a garments exporter) were women, 50 percent of the 20,508 permanent employees of Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail are women and 44 percent of the 14,720 permanent employees of Bombay Rayon Fashions were women.

The database being created from these new disclosures is young still. But, there is tremendous scope for improvement to help us understand employment behaviour of individual companies. It would be useful if SEBI or MCA expand the scope of the regulations to make it mandatory for all companies to reveal such information. Further, the gender-distribution should be revealed even for contractual employees.

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