Women in Leadership: Breaking Barriers and Driving Success

In India, where approximately 663 million women reside, with 450 million within the working age range of 15 to 64 years, the landscape of women in leadership is evolving. Today, women in India are better educated and highly aspirational. According to a survey conducted by CII with 700 working women, more than 40% of the respondents expressed aspirations to rise to the top of their respective companies.

Women’s Economic Empowerment

Enabling women’s entry and retention in the workforce has been a focal point of efforts towards women’s economic empowerment in India. The government has implemented numerous policies supportive of women at work, including Equal Pay for Equal Work, the Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act, the Maternity Benefits Act and the establishment of hostels for working women. These initiatives aim to create a more inclusive and secure work environment for women across different sectors.

It’s important to note that India is not a homogenous space, and more than 90% of women in the country are engaged in the informal sector, often with limited job security. Recognizing this disparity, India’s extensive network of women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in both rural and urban areas becomes crucial. These groups, supported by both government and non-government organizations, provide a ray of hope for promoting women’s economic empowerment, particularly through entrepreneurship.

The government has initiated various programs to advance women’s entrepreneurship through these SHGs. Programs like the Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Promotion (SVEP) and the National Rural Entrepreneurship Transformation Program (NRETP) offer funding and training for women-led non-farm enterprises. Additionally, schemes such as Mudra Yojana, Annapurna, and Udyogini provide collateral-free finance options, aiming to empower and uplift women entrepreneurs across the nation.

Industry’s Role in Women’s Empowerment

The corporate sector in India is another ballgame all together. It has undergone a notable shift in recognizing the importance of gender diversity and actively empowering women within the workforce. Various companies have instituted programs and policies to not only promote women’s participation but also facilitate their progression within organizations. These initiatives extend beyond mere tokenism, aiming to create an inclusive environment where women can contribute meaningfully and advance in their careers.

Mentorship programs and leadership training initiatives have become pivotal components of the industry’s efforts towards women’s empowerment, as well as, creating a supportive work culture, equal opportunities for career advancement and fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion. 

These initiatives go beyond gender and encompass aspects such as ethnicity, age and background. Leading corporations in India extend their commitment to women’s empowerment beyond the confines of their offices through community engagement and social impact programs. Such initiatives actively contribute to the upliftment of women in the broader society, including providing skill development programs, especially for women in the informal sector, supporting women-led businesses and participating in community development projects targeting the welfare of women.

Lingering Challenges and the Need for More

The Indian industry, government, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) collectively play a crucial role in generating livelihood opportunities for women, engaging in diverse activities ranging from skill development programs to establishing market and financial linkages.

Despite the progress made in advancing women in leadership roles in India, there persists an ongoing need for collaborative efforts to co-create ecosystems that empower women to realize their complete economic potential.

Creating a Dedicated Centre on Women Leadership

CII is proud to announce the launch of its Centre on Women Leadership in partnership with The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. 

The centre proposes creates a multi-stakeholder platform which aims to inspire leadership in thought and action to drive transformation and break barriers to the entry, retention, and growth of women as leaders in the economy, both within the formal and informal sectors. It will co-create ecosystems to enable women to achieve their full economic potential with the following as focus areas of work:

Knowledge creation through research to inform policy and industry
Capacity building/training to upskill women and conduct gender audits for organisations/private sector
Promoting best practices through gender parity awards
Building alliances to promote inclusion of women in the economy

This Centre is a step forward in CII’s efforts to engage with industry on women empowerment.

To know more contact the CII Indian Women Network Secretariat at

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