Praveen Gupta, Raheja QBE

Tackling discrimination against women in India

Praveen Gupta, Raheja QBE

December 18 2018

Business school BIMTECH and Raheja QBE General Insurance have analysed the risks faced by women leaders across the entire business spectrum in India’s National Capital Region (NCR) in a survey entitled Corporate Governance & Risk Transfer: A Survey on Perceptions of Women Leaders in the National Capital Region.

This survey and its findings turned out to be unique in many ways. Despite given anonymity, not many women leaders in the NCR approached were forthcoming. The outcome was shocking given the high number of those interviewed who affirmed the extent of discrimination.

The findings, to those of us who are optimists, show some light at the end of the tunnel but mostly in the form of self-employment and entrepreneurship. Meanwhile ‘new age’ businesses with sustained affirmative action could create a level playing field.

Holistic approach

The long tail class has been a dominant theme at Raheja QBE. The approach towards this class has been holistic rather than product-centric, whereby the attempt is to create a market. How does that translate into real action?

We value informed selling — engaging partners in product training; ensuring the claims team is engaged; the scope is wider — namely socioeconomic — whereby our market events tend to focus on dealing with societal changes and their impact on the overall risk ecosystem; our role in the value chain is where we help facilitate risk transfer. All this manifests into a compelling narrative — more recently in the form of our panel discussions under the banner of the Raheja QBE Leadership Series; diversity and inclusivity remains an underlying theme.

The survey

The idea of collaborating with BIMTECH came while addressing students; it translated into a project relating to women leaders in the NCR. That was over a year ago and just when we were at the tail end of the study it coincided with the #MeToo movement.

The study included a survey on diversity and inclusivity and sought insights into awareness of some rudimentary risk management practices and risk transfer solutions. The survey was predominantly led by a team of girl students and the subject matter were women leaders in the National Capital Region and each respondent could remain anonymous.

It began with a premise that there was no discrimination against women. However, the outcome turned out to be different. 650 corporate leaders were asked to participate from a mix of listed, unlisted and start-up firms. 165 agreed to meet and eventually 86 were interviewed.

Discrimination discovered in the survey included gender-based discrimination; a trust deficit; sexual abuse; lack of reliability; non-cooperation; isolation; and wage gaps. The rating on all counts was highly negative.

What however surprised a panel of expert women leaders was the low rating on sexual harassment; they didn’t quite agree with this. Also eye opening was the poor understanding of liability and cyber insurance solutions as a means of risk transfer.

Breaking the glass ceiling

Something seriously needs to be done to spruce up the corporate culture to make it really conducive for women to work,  move up in significant numbers and break the glass ceiling. The business press has been abuzz with the merits of how helpful directors’ and officers’ (D&O) insurance is in the world of #MeToo.

D&O cover is neither a means of prevention nor a cure for this malaise. It should be the last line of defense. A judicious risk management programme ought to first address what corporates as employers can do by themselves. Needless to mention, the deficiencies in understanding of the risk management practices and risk transfer mechanism call for a shift by carriers from the existing product-centric transactional approach to one with more value proposition.

The author is Praveen Gupta, managing director and chief executive of Raheja QBE General Insurance. 

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