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Jun 20, 2011 at 12:05am IST

Indian women rise in business but not in power

New Delhi: More Indian businesswomen are gaining managerial positions as the country's economic growth surges ahead, yet few are able to break the glass ceiling and secure jobs with real power due to stereotypical views of them as "fragile" and ineffective, a new study says.

According to research by the Centre for Social Research (CSR) a New Delhi based gender rights think-tank - professional women in India not only face attitudinal challenges, but also problems within their organisations like a lack of gender policies to accommodate the domestic pressures on them.

"It can be easily judged from the findings of the study that women's representation at the top level of management is proportionately very low compared to men. A solid glass ceiling exists which is resisting women's movement in their ladder of career growth," said Ranjana Kumari, CSR's director.

Indian women rise in business but not in power

The study focused on the situation of women managers working in the health, media, hospitality and banking sectors.

"A major barrier for promotion of women managers comes from insensitivity of the corporations towards women’s social roles and responsibilities."

The study focused on the situation of women managers working in the health, media, hospitality and banking and finance sectors and surveyed 240 female managers and 24 human resources managers across three cities New Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore.

India's economic liberalization which began in the early nineties has helped the South Asian nation achieve near-double-digit growth over the last five years, making it the continent's third largest economy. The rapid emergence of the corporate sector and the spread of higher education amongst girls have meant that more women than ever are taking up professional positions in companies.

Yet, according to the research, 72 per cent of the companies surveyed did not have specific gender policies to help promote women to leadership positions.

Special benefits for women such as flexible working hours, transport, compensatory leave, and medical benefits are not available to most respondents, said the report, despite laws which dictate this.

The majority of young married women managers polled said they wanted their companies to have a more sensitive approach to females, such as offering maternity benefits for those in entry and mid-level positions and providing crèches so that they could maintain a work-life balance.

Others said participating in training and networking opportunities - important facets for companies and employees to grow - were a challenge due to family obligations and there largely were no mechanisms in place in their organisations to take account of pressures on them at home.

In many Indian households, married professional women often live together with their in-laws and are expected to look after the home and their children as well manage the cooking and cleaning. Their families, as a result, often view their professional jobs as a means of income, rather than a career.

As a result of such pressure, there is a prevailing mindset that women are less committed to work and end up compromising their work for their home life.

"This suggests that there needs to be systemic changes if companies are serious about bringing in greater diversity in their management and encouraging competent women to overcome the hurdles that society places in their career path," said Kumari.