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Catalyst Study Reveals India’s “High Potential” Women in Technology Aim High But Earn Less, Get Fewer Opportunities for Advancement Than Men

Gender pay gap widens by approximately US$6000 (Rs.3.8 lakhs) over a period of 12 years

MUMBAI (January 15, 2014)—High-potential women in India’s thriving technology sector begin their careers as equals with men, with similar aspirations to the highest levels including that of CEO, according to a new Catalyst report. Despite this very promising start, a gender gap soon results in women earning less and receiving fewer opportunities that lead to advancement, conditions that contribute to fewer women in critical senior-level positions and a pay gap between women and men that expands over time.

The report, High Potentials Under High Pressure in India’s Technology Sector, studied India’s technology sector and is part of Catalyst’s groundbreaking study of MBA graduates from top business schools around the world.

While the overall global study shows that women MBAs start at lower positions and lower pay (US$4600 less on average) than their male counterparts, India Inc.’s  high-potential women and men in technology start out on an equal footing when it comes to job level and pay. However, 12 years into their careers, women lag behind men by approximately Rs.3.8 lakhs or US$6000 in terms of pay.

“In India’s growing economy, with high job mobility and the corresponding high demand for talent, organizations must do everything they can to attract and retain women—who, the study shows, are amongst their most committed employees,” said Shachi Irde, Executive Director, Catalyst India WRC. “Ensuring pay equity, equal access to developmental opportunities, and flexible and inclusive environments for women is critical for retaining talent in India’s technology sector.”

Key findings of the Catalyst report include:

  • Almost four-fifths (79%) of young high-potential men and women alike, at the start of their careers, aspire to senior executive positions, including that of CEO.

  • But over time, some differences emerge. While almost three-quarters of the high potentials with young children (74%) aspired to senior executive/CEO levels, a significantly higher proportion (88%) of high potentials with older or no children aspired to the top. Forty-two percent of women with young children aspired to the top, showing that the aspiration gap is not a simple gender gap, but is more complex and driven by gender role norms.

  • Economic factors in India make “job-hopping” common, but women and men differ in their mobility patterns. Men change jobs more often: At the time of the survey, just 21% of the men were still at the same company where they had started their careers, compared to 36% of the women. The main reason that high-potential women and men left their first job was to get ahead in their career (64%) or for higher compensation (50%).

  • Women receive fewer on-the-job experiences that matter for pay/advancement such as mission-critical “line” jobs and long-duration international relocations. For example, as many as 57% of men relocated to work abroad for three or more years compared to just 18% of women.

  • Of women with older children, 80% said that they would be “happy to spend the rest of my career with this company,” while only 41% of the men said so.

  • Of note, women in general are more dissatisfied with pay and salary growth over their careers. Compared to 42% of men, 52% of women were “very” or “somewhat” dissatisfied with their compensation. In addition, 44% of women were “very” or “somewhat” dissatisfied with their salary progress compared to 35% of men.

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“This report has important implications for India Inc. Companies in India’s technology sector are perceived as pioneers in championing diversity initiatives. These results demonstrate that that there is still much more to be done toward retaining and advancing talented women across many industries in India,” adds Ms. Irde. “Because the Indian IT industry contributes significantly to India’s GDP and generates a considerable number of jobs, opportunities for India Inc. to pick top talent from the full pool of its ‘best and brightest’ is critical to strengthening India’s economic performance.”

High Potentials Under High Pressure in India’s Technology Sector is part of the research program The Promise of Future Leadership: A Research Program on Highly Talented Employees in the Pipeline, which has followed MBA graduates from 26 leading business schools in Asia, Canada, Europe and the United States. The current study used high-potential employees from organizations in India.

AT&T, Bloomberg, BMO Financial Group, Cardinal Health, Inc., Chevron Corporation, Credit Suisse, Dell Inc., Deloitte LLP, Desjardins Group, Deutsche Bank AG, EY, General Motors Company, Hewlett-Packard Company, IBM Corporation, KeyBank, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, McDonald’s Corporation, PPL Corporation, Sodexo, State Street Corporation, UPS.

Founded in 2011, Catalyst India WRC is a membership community of over 50 leading corporations and professional firms committed to building inclusive workplaces that expand opportunities for women and business in corporate India. Catalyst India works with its members to build a robust pipeline of current and future leaders using insights from Catalyst’s highly regarded research, solution-based tools, networking events, and the Catalyst India Advisory Board.

Founded in 1962, Catalyst is the leading nonprofit organization expanding opportunities for women and business. With offices in the United States, Canada, Europe, India, and Australia, and more than 700 members, Catalyst is the trusted resource for research, information, and advice about women at work. Catalyst annually honors exemplary organizational initiatives that promote women’s advancement with the Catalyst Award.