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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

Economic Times India – Main challenge is retaining high-potential women at work

  • May 2019

This article originally appeared on The Economic Times India. View the original article here.

Women and men define great leadership similarly, but there are distinct differences across generations, according to a recent survey by Egon Zehnder.

The 2019 edition of the Leaders & Daughters Global Survey sought responses from 2,500 women and men in leadership positions or expert roles across seven countries - Australia, Brazil, China, Germany, India, UK, and the US - across gender, age, and organizational levels.

The survey asked questions on what made for great leadership, the importance of diverse organizations and how the respondents prioritized and balanced their professional and personal lives.

It asked respondents to rank the significance of a diverse workplace on a four-point scale, from very important to unimportant, with Millennials (65%) and Gen Xers (61%) saying it was very important, compared with Boomers (51%).

A high number of respondents also believed their organizations valued diversity of thought, with 69% overall saying their companies genuinely believed in different ways of thinking and unique approaches to solving problems. On the question of diversity, which includes backgrounds, ages, races, and genders, India was significantly above the global average, with 77% believing their leadership team was diverse. “As the power shifts, it’s becoming increasingly more important to discuss the shifting priorities of younger leaders,” said Pallavi Kathuria, managing partner of Egon Zehnder’s India offices.

“There is an urgent need for businesses to adapt workplace processes and policies to align with the professional and personal priorities of a new generation of leadership. Senior leaders have a critical role to play in leading through inclusive behavior to bring diversity to life,” she added.


"Senior leaders have a critical role to play in leading through inclusive behavior to bring diversity to life."

Pallavi Kathuria, managing partner of Egon Zehnder India


Top women leaders in India believed that there was progress when it came to diversity of gender at workplaces and women in leadership positions. The pace of change was, however, still slow.

The main challenge was to retain high-potential women at the workplace, who sometimes opted out due to pressure from various life stages, said Zia Mody, managing partner at leading law firm AZB & Partners. “For too long women were not even there to dream…they were afraid to disrupt family life…however, there is an increasing number in the younger generation who dream for themselves,” said Falguni Nayar, founder, Nykaa.

Interestingly, the survey highlighted that C-suite aspirations have nearly evened out between men and women while defining career success, with 27% of women aspiring to reach the Csuite compared with 31% of men. However, women have a more difficult path ahead, according to Egon Zehnder’s 2018 Global Board Diversity Tracker that showed women make up just 3.7% of CEOs and 12.2% of CFOs globally.

Millennials were the most aspirational group, with 33% hoping to reach the C-suite, compared with 13% of Boomers (the global average was 29%).



Orginial article: Main challenge is retaining high-potential women at work: Survey. The Economic Times India, 30 April 2019.

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