What it takes to be a ‘Best Company for Women in India’?

BCWI Webpage

It is 11:00 pm at night in Delhi when I write this and it’s been a long day. I have met the CEO’s of two exciting organizations. They both couldn’t be more different – one is a very established start-up (I realize that’s an oxymoron even as I write this!) and the other a 50 yrs+ company which has weathered many storms and been written about for all the right reasons. Yet, they have a common passion – to be part of the 100 Best Companies for Women in India – 2017 edition!

I find renewed focus and intent in gender diversity in corporate India. I am delighted to see the increased earnestness with which companies have been chartering their roadmaps to gender balance. With the launch of India’s most comprehensive gender analytics exercise in 2016 – the Working Mother & AVTAR Best Companies for Women in India (BCWI), I have been witness to reenergized efforts among several corporate houses over the past year! And one question I get asked a lot is – ‘What does it take to be a Best Company for Women in India?’

Making it to the prestigious 100 Best List or the hallowed portals of Top 10 – the two widely celebrated alphabetical lists, is definitely one of the goals that gender-inclusive organizations are pursuing this year. Beyond positive publicity and brand enhancement, I am thrilled to also see genuine intent in building workplaces inclusive of women; about making the journey to gender balance around ‘being smart’ and beyond ‘being right’!

And so before I begin to specifically address this question, let me shine some light on how the BCWI works. At its core, BCWI is a policy assessment exercise. The application form towards participation has 400+ questions that essentially drills down the length and breadth of policy expanse of a company towards women’s career enablement. Data is sought across areas like workforce profile (representation of women at various organizational levels), policies for recruitment, retention and advancement, for safety & security, for flexible work, for benefits like day care services et al!

So how, one may ask is policy effectiveness captured through mere data? The secret lies in a three pronged approach that was systematically developed through the 30+ years of evolution of this study by the Working Mother Group in the U.S. The approach measures – a) Existence of a policy b) Access % of the policy and c) Utilisation % of the policy. Let us look at an actual example – that of a flexi-time policy. The first question on ‘Existence’ would be ‘Did you a have a flexi-time policy in the past year?’. The second question would be ‘What % of women and men were offered this policy in the past year?’. And the third question on ‘Utilization’ would be ‘What % of women and men utilized this policy in the past year?’. The rationale is, existence-access-utilization metrics together help signify the impact of a policy. In nutshell, if you have a policy – it is good. If you offer it to a majority of the workforce it is great, if the majority of the workforce utilizes it – it is impactful!

Having said that, let us get back to the case in point – What does it take to be a BCWI? Here we go:

  1. The first step is to have a well thought out policy framework towards women’s career advancement
  2. The second is to ensure effective policy implementation
  3. The third is to systematically track policy impact and build data corpus of policy related metrics
  4. The fourth step – a derivative of the third is to leverage the power of the data thus created
    1. By monitoring progress over the years
    2. By benchmarking oneself with industry peers and Best-in-class
  5. The fifth and perhaps a very important strategy going forward with a surging millennial population is to ensure that workplaces stay inclusive of men – that there is gender neutrality in policy implementation. In fact, the application form towards participation encourages you to do just that – keep a tab on policy reach on both your women and men folks!

So what do I tell a company that aspires to be a BCWI?

  1. At the outset, sign up for Participation in the initiative this year and every year that follows. This allows you to obtain access to the Analytics tool which can lay the foundation for creating a data-rich measurement environment within your organization
  2. Secondly, create a project team that would manage the process of collecting data that the questionnaire asks.
  3. Thirdly, make sure that the deadlines are met well in advance to provide adequate time for clarifications or providing additional data

More importantly,

  1. This is a journey. Do not look at it as a urgent outcome to be handled, more a discipline to be created – like a fitness regime
  2. Each year the tool adds questions and logic that will help you and challenge you. Please invest a bit of time to understand the tool before you develop a strategy to complete it
  3. The AVTAR team is always ready to support and assist. Please reach out. As Prof. Dumbledore says, “Help is available to those who ask for it!”

Best wishes for your BCWI journey! May we together build a gender inclusive India!



Dr. Saundarya Rajesh

Founder - President, AVTAR Group, SME on Diversity & Inclusion and Women's Workforce Participation

Author: Dr. Saundarya Rajesh

Founder - President, AVTAR Group, SME on Diversity & Inclusion and Women's Workforce Participation