Women are a huge untapped economic resource in India. And as the country continues to face a shortage of skilled workers, smart companies are recognizing the potential of the underutilized female workforce.
Less than 30 percent of working-age women are currently part of India’s workforce — compared to nearly 80 percent of men — giving India one of the lowest female labor force participation rates in the world. When it comes to leadership roles, women hold only on 15 percent of board seats in the country’s 158 largest companies.
GVK BIO, a global pharmaceutical contract research and development organization (CRDO) headquartered in Hyderabad, is doing its part to improve those numbers — and it’s paying off in more ways than simple statistics.
Recognizing the need
After crunching the numbers and realizing that women comprise about 16 percent of GVK BIO’s team across its four sites in India, the company decided it could do better. Starting with an assessment of its leadership team, GVK BIO recognized an immediate need for more diversity in viewpoints.
“As we assessed ourselves it quickly became obvious to us as a management team that we were excluding 50 percent of potential ideas by not having diversity in the team, especially from a gender perspective,” says Manni Kantipudi, director and chief executive officer at GVK BIO.
Not only does GVK BIO recognize that more diverse leadership can help the company to think differently and respond better, they also want the leadership team to better reflect the demographics of the company’s global customer base.
In the fall of last year, GVK BIO launched the EvolWE program. The program, which takes just under a year for the women involved to complete, leverages an external agency that specializes in developing women leaders, using an intense combination of classroom learning, team-based projects, and interactions with other female leaders, to build leadership traits and self-confidence.
“We really believe that once the first set of leaders shatter any perceived glass ceiling, this will be a catalyst for self-belief in our scientific and managerial staff on what is possible, leading to a rich pipeline of a diverse set of future leaders,” says Kantipudi.
Internally, GVK BIO says EvolWE is already generating positive reviews from those involved. Looking towards the future, the CRDO hopes that the program will serve as a differentiator, attracting new talent to GVK BIO.
Change is past due
While the EvolWE program might be considered somewhat unique in India, Kantipudi emphasizes that the motivating factor did not have to do with standing out.
“We simply think that it is well past due, and not doing it can potentially impact our growth plans for the future,” says Kantipudi. “EvolWE’s time has truly come if we want to deliver on our investor needs and our internal Employee Value Proposition.”
It’s difficult to refute the idea that more efficient and better quality medicines come quicker when the talent pool is diverse, and fully engaged and utilized.
“Our assets are not the kettles which manufacture the product or the lab hoods where research is conducted. Our assets are our talent — and they leave our facility every day. We want them to not only return the next day, but come back invigorated, as we seek to discover, develop, and manufacture the medicines that impact human life,” says Kantipudi.