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15th WILL Forum Meeting

WILL@Axis Bank Thought leadership
Assessing the Return on Investment (ROI) in Women

15th WILL Forum Meeting, hosted by Axis Bank, Mumbai
February 2-3, 2012


While the business case for women in leadership is now well recognized -- from the talent, market, investors, customers, and risk governance perspective -- there remains a clear consensus among the women of corporate India—that the progress is slow, not being appropriately measured, and the critical investment in women is not keeping pace with their aspirations for moving up in the corporate organization and receiving the support for balancing their demanding roles.

While companies continue to have diverse views on investing in women – the consensus at the 15th WILL Forum meeting was clear: “Companies who have invested in diversity and women mentorship have clearly reported lower attrition rates in corporate India. If there is an unconscious bias in the lack of investment in women executives – it needs to be corrected urgently for enhancing the competitiveness, growth, sustainability, and stakeholder value of the company.”

So: what is holding back investment in women in business? Here are some perspectives from the 50 women thought-leaders:

  • There are not enough women-on-top to drive it
  • Lack of awareness and data on the value of women in business performance
  • Lack of "conscious" effort on the part of management and CEOs
  • Lack of a quantitive model to estimate the returns on investment in women
  • Lack of knowledge on the differentiating styles of women in leadership that need to be invested in
  • Fear of having women on top in the organization, due to traditional mindsets, and hesitation to change
  • Risk of investing in women, which is mis-guided and needs to change
  • Companies are concerned that women will “off-ramp,” and do not invest in them
  • Some see a problem of men reporting to women bosses
  • Acceptance of women in decision-making top-management is lacking
  • Inertia among companies to groom women
  • Lack of understanding of women issues, and that women also need to grow their careers
  • Companies have not understood the risk of "not investing"in women!
  • Stereotype impression that women executives lack commitment to their work
  • Policy initiatives remain " on paper" and nominating women in top-positions is not implemented
  • Women are still not accepted as "equals" in the workplace, so they get a lower investment at all levels

Our compliments to several senior male colleagues who participated in the WILL Forum meeting -- for their leadership in driving an open, candid and substantive sharing of views on how companies are looking at newer possibilities for engaging women, offering to understand how they can contribute to the process and the WILL mission on women in leadership, and finding ways to invest in the women's talent, especially at higher grades in the organization.

The sessions also discussed the implementation of gender leadership assessment as an important measurement tool of investing in women, and implementing best practices for women in the workplace as:

Key CEO Agenda;

  • Making it strategic

  • Implementing KPI's related to diversity

  • Adopt HR best practices for women

  • Make the process inclusive

  • Make the process accountable

  • Having global diversity score-cards

  • Leadership development plan for women and measuring the results, providing financial returns for diversity targets

In a "flatter world" – leveraging the diverse skills, cultures, experiences, insights, and perspectives -- will become the core DNA to energize the common purpose of the organization, and yet preserve everyone's individuality for innovation and growth.

The WILL Forum India is committed to releasing the WILL report on “Measuring the Return on Investing in Women: 2012” -- for highlighting how attrition has decreased, customer and employees satisfaction and well-being has increased, and steady performance of the company has increased – in companies that have been investing in women as a core priority.

Our best compliments to Axis Bank for leading the mandate for women in leadership – with conviction and commitment.



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