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November 18, 2010What is India Inc.? For me, it’s not just India’s booming business sector. It’s also a phrase suggesting tremendous opportunity for Indian women and business.

India is undergoing explosive GDP growth—and a skilled labor shortage to match. Yet amid this tremendous thirst for talent, deep gender gaps persist. Women represent only 36% of the labor force—less than half that of men—and only 3% to 6% of senior management.

To mark the launch of our new report, Leadership Gap in India Inc., I’ve asked our Senior Advisor in India, Deepali Bagati, to write about what’s at stake in this emerging market. Women, she says, are core to India Inc.’s sustainable growth. —Ilene H. Lang

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Deepali Bagati writes:

India Inc.—the land of opportunities, relationships and contradictions—is a place where organizations find themselves thriving on growth and innovation, but also challenged by the talent crunch: finding and keeping top talent. Organizations are hiring aggressively, and employees are jumping ship even more aggressively especially at the skilled/managerial level. Culturally, the importance of relationships cannot be emphasized enough, and “who you know” continues to be critical in getting close to the ladder, let alone moving up the ladder.

Although women continue to be bogged down with familial and societal stereotypes about their roles and abilities, the burgeoning middle class, intense consumerism and a thirst for upward mobility in urban India is opening doors for women. In rural India, a million plus women are functioning as grassroots leaders in the Panchayati Raj Institutions, and rural India has already been anointed as the unexplored and untapped market with unprecedented opportunities.

The India story is no longer about whether this is a growth play, but more about maximizing and accelerating this growth by leveraging female talent. A unique window of opportunity beckons the key stakeholders and decision-makers—the majority of who are still male—to set in motion processes and programs that bring more women into the workforce and create an agile and inclusive workplace.

The current buzz about financial inclusion provides a good analogy. Unless the under-banked are provided access to financial resources and included in India’s growth, this growth will not be real, sustainable and optimal. In the same way, if female talent is not called upon, leveraged and included, India Inc. will suffer a similar fate.

Catalyst is committed to asking the critical questions and providing knowledge and action steps for organizations to deliberately affect and accelerate change and morph into workplaces where women feel welcomed, have access to opportunities and rewards and have adequate support to juggle multiple stress points in their life-career cycle. India Inc. is ripe for these transformations. The country’s long-term economic health depends on investment and utilization of female talent.

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Deepali Bagati, Ph.D., based in Mumbai, develops knowledge products on the development, retention, and advancement of women in business in India and serves as Catalyst’s advisor on diversity and inclusion in the region. She received her Ph.D. in Social Work and Social Research from Bryn Mawr College, with her dissertation focusing on the impact of microcredit loans on gender relations at the household level for low-income women in New Delhi. Dr. Bagati earned a M.A. in Social Work and a B.A. in Economics, with honors, from Delhi University, New Delhi, India.