Organizations must recognise and nurture women as a talent pool to advance decent work for all

Opening remarks by Mr Satoshi Sasaki, Deputy Director and Officer-in-Charge, ILO DWT/CO-New Delhi, at the Leadership Development for Women Executives in CPSEs organized by SCOPE

Statement | New Delhi, India | 13 July 2023
On behalf of the ILO Country Office India, I am extremely pleased to participate at this workshop which is specially focussed on Leadership Development for Women Executives. I would like to congratulate the DG and the Executive Board and membership of SCOPE for taking this proactive initiative.

ILO stands firm in promoting equal opportunities for all workers. We have been engaged in many activities promoting women empowerment and providing equal opportunities for women. We are extremely happy to say that much work in this area has been done by SCOPE in collaboration with ILO since 2017. The initiative on “Empowering Women in Public Sector Enterprises in India” started in 2017, with The Bureau for Employers’ Activities of the ILO undertaking a study on “Women in Leadership and Management in the Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) in India”, in collaboration with SCOPE. This was the first time a study of this nature was conducted cutting across different PSUs, in India. It received active support from SCOPE’s Women in Public Sector (WIPS) forum, which is a forum facilitated by SCOPE within its membership. The findings from the study were manifold. Significantly, the study pointed out that underlining organizations as being gender neutral do not necessarily promote substantive gender equality as indicated by skewed percentage of women in the managerial/leadership ladder. Organizations have to show their intent in recognizing women as a talent pool and effectively utilize this talent pool by creating a system that nurtures their potential, and focuses on their competency building starting from the induction level. Specifically, the study proposed 19 recommendations clubbed under four categories including:

• improving organizational work structure;
• strengthening basic necessities and facilities;
• sensitization efforts at all levels; and
• other supporting factors.

As an immediate follow up of the study, it was proposed that SCOPE creates a body of champions drawing from different PSUs - both women and men from within its member organizations. It was decided that these champions will facilitate the much needed dialogues and discussions within PSUs. ILO trained and certified these identified champions. The 12 champions: 2 Men and 10 Women became the SCOPE task force which is now competent to conduct gender training and sensitization sessions focusing on equal opportunities for career advancement in PSUs.

In 2020, the COVID pandemic made ILO initiate a second study in collaboration with SCOPE on “Work from Home” (WfH) Model in PSUs. The study in effect was a continuation of its previous collaborative work in 2017. The WfH arrangement was a key recommendation of the 2017 SCOPE-ILO study. It had then received a fair share of arguments and counter-arguments. However, the COVID pandemic made the WfH option inevitable.

The SCOPE Champions and ILO thought this was an opportune moment to ascertain the effectiveness of Working from Home arrangement which had been proposed under the previous study as a flexi working arrangement for Women Executives and Managers in PSUs. The study was intended to ascertain:

• how effective was WfH arrangement?
• What are the experiences of the PSUs?
• What are the challenges women in leadership and management in PSUs faced working from home?
• Has it exposed issues of work life balance? etc.

In this study, the champions trained by ILO were involved from the beginning in terms of conceptualising and participating in conducting the study; and drafting the guidelines for a Gender Sensitive ‘Work from Home (WfH)’ Policy in PSEs. The SCOPE-ILO initiative through its champions has a huge potential in drawing attention within the PSEs - of the influencing factors that enables organizations to build a more empowered organization. The start has already been made through the pilot workshops conducted by the champions so far. More importantly, today’s workshop testifies very clearly to the firm commitment of the management of SCOPE towards promoting empowerment of women executives.

It is noted that the objectives of today’s workshop are to help women executives to identify opportunities for leadership, distinct behavioural aspects to become effective leaders, and leveraging the positive climate for gender empowerment in order to inspire them to take on senior management positions. The two study reports SCOPE and ILO collaborated on in 2017 and 2022 as mentioned above refer to some interesting findings that would help in pursuing today’s workshop objectives. I am sure you will deliberate on it further during the workshop. ILO stands committed to work and collaborate further with SCOPE in the future.