Sunday, December 11, 2005

Public sector: whare are the women CEOs?

Today's Hindu carries an an article by C.V. Madhavi of the Centre for Organization Development, Hyderabad, examining why our public sector enterprises have so few women in top management positions.

The article promises quite a bit when Madhavi says she decided to ask the women managers themselves "to get first-hand information". It then lists some of the problems that were identified in the research. Here are the first two problems:

Marriage is still the principal determinant of women's social position. ... They shoulder majority of household and childcare responsibilities. After the first child, things become more difficult, and focus shifts. This becomes a major constraint in more productive years of woman's life (between 25 to 40 years) when she has to build her career.


Women also tend to be clustered at the lower levels of management, leaving them with fewer influential contacts with whom to network for opportunities. Women generally prefer to spend their evenings with their children rather than network.

This is the only part that seemed genuine, but it also identified rather well known problems. The ones that come later appear to blame women and their attitudes. Can you believe women managers actually said the following:

  • 'Many women seem to be satisfied with a routine 9-5 job.'
  • 'there is no burning desire to rise to the top.'
  • 'women do not think earning the daily bread is their responsibility.'
  • 'lack of ambition to learn or excel is another factor.'

The onslaught is relentless. For example, Madhavi quotes a General Manager who believes that "there are less number of women at the senior management level not because of discrimination, but because women do not avail the opportunities provided to them." And finally, we get this gem from Ranjana Kumar, the Chairperson of NABARD:

... "Opportunities are the same for men and women. We should be able to take up the challenge and deliver. There is no other way. At the end of the day, nothing succeeds like success."

Hello, just wait a minute, here! On one side, we have contented women who lack ambition, and on the other side, we have some high achievers who think that other women just don't have it in them. It is possible, of course, that the women in lower management are rationalizing their inability to move up in management. But, is it also possible that a methodological problem led Madhavi to talk to only these two kinds of women? If women really have all these sad attitudes, where is the 'problem' of lack of top women managers in PSEs?

Is it all some well meaning but misguided stuff, or is there a hidden agenda? Just why is the Hindu publishing such 'blame the victim' stories, under the guise of being a women-friendly paper?