Research Initiative: Women in India's IT Industry

Posted by Jadine Lannon at Feb 28, 2013 09:00 AM |
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CIS has begun a brief research project which will examine indicators of female economic empowerment in the IT industry in India. Though the gathering of quantitative and qualitative data from the six largest publicly-traded Indian software companies, we hope to provide insight into state of female employment in one of the most important and rapidly growing economic sectors in the country.

The recent events and subsequent discussions surrounding the brutal gang rape and murder of a young Delhi woman on a bus last December in Munirka, New Delhi, have prompted dialogue in mainstream discourses about the position of women in India, and have lead many to scrutinize the treatment of women within various spheres of Indian society. What has become increasingly apparent following the events of December 16th is that effective longterm change for Indian women cannot be achieved by harsher consequences or more rigorous transport regulations, but instead through widespread recognition of the routine discrimination faced by Indian women in their public, private and professional lives. The latter sphere is of particular interest to the Indian context, as although the last two decades have seen an unprecedented number of Indian women enter the formal workforce, issues of female economic empowerment tend to get downplayed when juxtaposed against the entirety of the system of discrimination and violence faced by women in India.

As a brief foray into the reality of female economic empowerment in India, CIS has decided to carry out a small though hopefully telling research project on some of the largest corporate players in the Indian IT industry. The aim of this research is to gain a better understanding of the state of female employment, gender equality and the qualitative experience of being a working woman in one of the most important and rapidly growing economic sectors in the country.

Using NASSCOM's annual industry ratings from 2007-2012,[1] we put together a list of the six software companies headquartered in India that appeared in the top five spots at least twice between the years 2007-2012. These companies are Tata Consultancy Services Ltd., Infosys Ltd., Wipro Ltd., HCL Tech Ltd., Tech Mahindra and Mahindra Satyam. Through formal requests for data and a handful of qualitative interviews, we will be gathering information from these companies and their employees that will eventually by compiled into a short report that will be publicly available on our website.

(A brief explanation of why we chose to use NASSCOM's industry list can be found at the end of this article,[2] along with some notes on the change of ownership of Mahindra Satyam and its merger with Tech Mahindra).[3]

Why the IT Industry?

In 2012, an international consulting and management firm called Booz & Company released “The Third Billion”, a global ranking of the level of economic empowerment attained by woman on 128 countries. The indicators used included equal pay for equal work, non-discrimination policies, the male-to-female-male employee ratio, and equality in terms of female managers and senior business leaders.[4] India rated quite poorly at spot 115.[5] Further, the International Labour Force recently reported that the rate of female participation in the total labour force[6] in India has fallen from 37% in 2004-05 to 29% in 2009-10, leaving India at the 11th lowest spot out of 131 countries.[7] Despite these declining rates, it was estimated in 2010 that approximately 5.5 million Indian women were entering the formal workforce each year at that period in time,[8] and though the aforementioned statistics likely indicate that a larger proportion of men are entering the formal workforce each year than women, this is a significant amount of employees, many of whom will be facing a unique set of challenges in the workplace simply because of their gender. In fact, research done by the Centre for Talent Innovation has found that 55% of female Indian employees routinely encounter such severe bias in the workplace that they disengage from their work or consider dropping out altogether.[9]

This is where the IT industry comes in. From an aggregate revenue of USD 3.9 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 1998[10] to more than USD 100 billion in FY2012,[11] the Indian IT-BPO industry has been growing exponentially over the last 15 years, and it continues to be one of the fastest growing sectors in the Indian economy. Further, it has rapidly become one of the most economically significant industries in India in terms of share of total exports (approximately 25% for FY2012)[12] export revenue (USD 69.1 billion and growing by more than 16%)[13] and proportion of national GDP (from 1.2% in FY1998 to 7.5% in FY2012).[14] IT services alone account for more than half of the software and services exports in the industry, and is the fastest growing segment of the sector at 18%.[15] Further, NASSCOM estimates that the sector will create 230,000 jobs in FY2012,[16] increasing the number of individuals employed directly in India's IT-BPO industry to about 2.8 million individuals.[17] The industry is estimated to indirectly employ another 8.9 million people.[18]

Because the IT industry in India is such an important source of employment for young Indian professionals (the median age of IT-BPO employees in India was about 24[19] in 2011), and because an unprecedented amount of those young professionals are women (women made up 42% of India's college graduates in 2010, and that figure was expected to continue to rise),[20] IT companies have the potential to become leading examples of women-friendly employers. However, according to DataQuest's Best Employer Survey 2012, the percentage of women employed in the IT industry in India has actually decreased from 26% in 2010 to 22% in 2012[21] even though the number of jobs created in this sector continues to increase annually. Again, these statistics most likely point to a larger number of males available for employment than females (and therefore a larger proportion of men being employed), but they also show that the number of women employed in the IT sector is not significantly increasing (or even increasing at all).

Considering, then, how important the IT industry may be for the employment of young female professionals (and if it is not now, it will be soon), the responsibility to create nondiscriminatory and comfortable workplace environments should fall heavily on the largest and most economically significant companies in the software sector, as they have the opportunity to set precedents not only for the rest of the industry but for Indian employers as a whole.

How are these industry giants faring in terms of the treatment of their female employees?

To commence this research, I have collected some basic facts about the Board of Directors and executive management teams of the six Indian IT companies off of their websites and annual reports. This brief preliminary foray into the industry has revealed that although many of these companies promote gender equality in the workplace and women in senior positions of authority, the Indian software sphere continues to be almost entirely male-dominated.

The collected statistics on Board members and executive management teams are listed below. It bears keeping in mind that while the information on the Board of Directors may be quite reliable (depending on how recently each company has updated their website) and therefore appropriate to use as a tool of comparative analysis, the information on the executive management teams can be misleading, as each company appears to have a different criteria of what constitutes a senior management team (for example, Tata Consultancy Services lists two individuals, their CEO and CFO, as their executive management team, but Wipro Ltd. lists 24 individuals from a variety of different departments).

Because we were not certain of how recently each company had updated its website, we have prioritized the data on the Boards from their annual Investor's Reports over the information available on their websites.

Tata Consultancy Services Limited
TCS' annual report for the 2011-2012 fiscal year reports a 14 member Board of Directors with one female non-executive director. This woman is not Indian. The report also lists a 28-member strong management team with two female members, and their website lists

  • Number of women on the Board: 1/14
  • Number of women holding executive management positions: 2/30

Infosys Limited
Infosys Ltd. has 15 Board members: six executive members, none of which are women; one male chairperson; and eight non-executive independent members, one of whom is a woman, but not an Indian woman.

Further, Infosys lists 14 individuals in their executive management team,[22] one of whom is a woman. It is interesting to note that this female member is the group head of Human Resources as well as being one of five senior Vice Presidents.[23] Infosys also has an Executive Council made up of 13 members, including one Indian woman.

Number of women on the Board: 1/15
Number of women holding executive management positions: 1/14

Wipro Limited
Wipro's Board of Directors is made up of 12 men: one executive chairman, two executive directors, and nine independent directors.

As for their executive management team, the website lists 24 executive leaders, two of whom are women.[24] Wipro also has a Corporate Executive Council of six men.

  • Number of women on Board: 0/12
  • Number of women in executive management team: 2/23

HCL Tech Limited
HCL's Board has nine members, two of whom are executive members. The other seven members are listed as being independent, non-executive members. One of these non-executive members is a woman; she is not Indian.

On their website[25] they list 18 members of their leadership team, none of whom are female.

  • Number of women on Board: 1/9
  • Number of women holding executive management positions: 0/18

Tech Mahindra
On Tech Mahindra's Board of Directors sits a non-executive chairman, one executive member, six non-executive independent members, and three non-executive directors. None of these individuals are female. On their website, seven employees appear to make up the leadership team of this company, one of whom is a woman. Interestingly, this individual is also the head of HR.[26]

  • Number of women on Board: 0/11
  • Number of women holding executive management positions: 1/7

Mahindra Satyam
According to their 2011-2012 annual report, Mahindra Satyam's Board of Directors boosts 6 members: a male chairman, one male CEO, and four non-executive board members, one of whom is an Indian woman.

Further, there appears to be six members of the leadership team[27] including the CEO, none of whom are female.

  • Number of women on Board: 1/6
  • Number of women holding executive management positions: 0/6

Summary of Board of Director Data

  • Number of female chairpersons in the 6 largest IT companies in India: 0/6
  • Number of women seated on the Board of Directors of the top 6 IT companies in India: 4/67
  • Executive (excluding chairmen/vice-chairmen): 0/14
  • Non-Executive (excluding chairmen/vice-chairmen): 4/47
  • Female Indian members: 1/4
  • Number of female employees in senior management positions: 6/98

While these numbers may be sobering, they are not exceptionally low, or even below average. According to The Globe and Mail's 11th annual Board Games report on corporate governance, the percentage of Board seats held by women on Boards of Directors in the Indian corporate sector in 2012 was 5.3%, meaning that, at an approximately 6% of seats held by female members, our very small sample size is actually sitting just above the Indian average. However, when compared to the other BRIC countries at 5.1%, 5.9% and 8.5% respectively,[28] India is still lagging behind when it comes to having women in positions of senior authority in the corporate world.

Further, considering that these are the largest corporate IT companies in the industry, and the majority carry out activities across the globe, they probably have, on average, larger and more diverse Boards of Directors than our average mid- to large-sized Indian software company. Further, two out of six companies do not even have one female member on their Board. As for those remaining four, it is likely that these companies may be the exception and not the rule when it comes to the number of women on the Boards in the Indian IT.

As for executive management, the world average for the percentage of women in senior management roles was 21% in 2012, a meagre increase from the global average of 19% in 2004.[29] The same study that produced these figures also found that the proportion of women holding senior management positions in India was 14%, placing the data from our sample size way below the curve at approximately 6%. However, due to issues discussed earlier in this post, this figure is not an accurate representation of the executive management teams of all six companies; future research will hopefully provide us with more factual statistics.

This is not to say that the IT sector in India is the only industry that should be concerned with its low rates of female employment and attainment of seniority, nor should its industry giants be the only corporate entities publicly scrutinized in this manner. The economic empowerment of women in India is an on-going struggle that is played out in many spheres in the Indian society, including the non-profit sector. In fact, if we perform a similar breakdown of CIS' Board of Directors and staff, the results are comparable to those of the IT companies:

According to our 2011-2012 annual report, our Board of Directors boosts 8 members, two of whom are executive members of CIS' management team. One of these individuals is an Indian woman.

Further, of our 14 staff members, four are women.



[1]. NASSCOM. 2012. Industry Rankings: Top 20 Players in IT Services. [online] Retrieved from on January 21st, 2013.

[2]. The NASSCOM industry ranking is a well-regarded annual ranking of the IT sector in India that is often used as a resource in various research initiatives and similar publications, and it appears to be widely accepted as a legitimate ranking by both those within the industry and by entities from other sectors. The ranking is determined using revenue information provided by each company for their activities in India, which we thought was a strong indicator of their significance to the industry and the Indian economic engine as a whole. Finally, NASSCOM carries out this ranking each year, which will allow us to use a similar methodology in choosing our research subjects should we choose to reproduce this research annually.

[3]. If you look at the NASSCOM list of top 20 for 2007-2008, you will see that a company called Satyam Computer Services. This company was taken over by the Mahindra Group in 2009, and was rebranded as Mahindra Satyam to reflect its new parent company. This is why Mahindra Satyam is included in our list, though it first appeared on the NASSCOM Industry Rankings for the 2011-2012 fiscal year; we counted the appearance of Satyam Computer Services in the fourth spot in the rankings for 2007-2008 as a point towards Mahindra Satyam.

Further, it was announced in March of 2012 that Mahindra Satyam and Tech Mahindra would be merging; however, this had not yet happened by the end of the 2012 fiscal year and therefore we will treat Mahindra Satyam and Tech Mahindra as separate and independent entities in this research project.

[4]. Aquirre, D., Hoteit, L., Rupp, C., & Sabbaugh, K. 2012. Empowering the Third Billion: Women and the World of Work in 2012. [pdf] Booz & Company. Accessible at:

[5]. ibid.

[6]. The rate of female labour participation indicates the proportion of the female population above the age of 15 that supplies labour for the production of goods and services on the formal market in a given time period.

[7]. International Labour Organization. February 13, 2013. India: Why is Women's Labour Force Participation Dropping? [online] Retrieved from on February 22nd, 2013.

[8]. Hewlett, S. A., Fredman, C., Leader-Chivee, L., & Rashid, R. 2010. The Battle for Female Talent in India. New York: Center for Work-Life Policy.

[9]. Hewlett, S. A. November 1, 2012. “More Women in the Workforce Could Raise GDP by 5%.” Harvard Business Review. [online] Retrieved from February 23rd, 2013.

[10]. Embassy of India. 2007. India's Information Technology Industry. [online] Retrieved from on February 23rd, 2013.

[11]. NASSCOM. 2012. Indian IT-BPO Industry. [online] Retrieved from on February 24th, 2013.

[12]. ibid.

[13]. ibid.

[14]. ibid.

[15]. NASSCOM. 2012. IT Services. [online] Retrieved from on February 25th, 2013.

[16]. NASSCOM. 2012. Indian IT-BPO Industry. [online] Retrieved from on February 24th, 2013.

[17]. ibid.

[18]. ibid.

[19]. Business Standard. January 31, 2011. Employee Retention Key Challenge for IT, BPO Cos. [online] Retrieved from on February 24th, 2013.

[20]. Hewlett, Sylvia A. & Rashid, Ripa. December 3, 2010. “India's Crown Jewels: Female Talent.” Harvard Business Review. [online] Retrieved from on February 23rd, 2013.

[21]. Sharma, P. October 29, 2012. “Gender Inclusivity, Still a Key Challenge.” DataQuest. [online] Retrieved from on February 19th, 2013.

[22]. Information retrieved from:

[23]. According to the Grant Thornton International Business Report for 2012, the majority of women employed in senior management positions are heads/directors of Human Resources (21%). It has been argued that women tend to get employed in Human Resources due to a perceived “natural transfer of skills”--meaning that women are believed to be pre-disposed to excel at Human Resources-related tasks and responsibilities simply because of the experiences and norms of their gender. For a more profound discussion of this phenomenon, please visit:

[24]. Information retrieved from:

[25]. Information retrieved from:

[26]. Please see footnote 23

[27]. Information retrieved from:

[28]. Information retrieved from:

[29]. Grant Thornton. 2012. “Women in Senior Management: Still Not Enough.” in Grant Thornton International Business Report 2012. Grant Thornton. [pdf] Accessible at:

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