I’ve always been sensitive to the Western stereotype of Indian women being soft-spoken and obedient, especially in the workplace. The Indian-Americans I grew up around were encouraged to be just as successful as their male counterparts. So I was excited to see this article in the NY Times, saying females make up the majority of leaders in multinational banks in India.
HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS and Fidelity International in India are run by women. So is the country’s second-biggest bank, Icici Bank, and its third-largest, Axis Bank. Women head investment banking operations at Kotak Mahindra and JPMorgan Chase and the equities division of Icici. Half of the deputy governors at the Reserve Bank of India are women.
Investment banking is such a boy’s club in the United States. In my experience, the swaggering young guys with a platinum AmEx bragging about their fancy apartments and alcohol budget is very much alive. Though American women are entering the field in increasing numbers, they have yet to move up the ranks with the same ease as men.
The article mentions the different atmosphere the Indian banks seem to have: family is important so speaking of your children is not seen as taking away from a worker’s capability, religion is also important so perhaps a more stringent value standard is enforced.
The biggest obstacle I see American women facing as they move up the corporate ladder is lack of childcare and flexible work arrangements. According to the article,
They all relied heavily on a support network of family and India’s cheap labor pool to help watch their children. Some enlisted mothers and mothers-in-law for child care for months or years, and all of them employed full-time nannies and maids.
Obviously this cannot be completely replicated in the United States. Childcare costs are often prohibitively expensive and enlisting the help of family is not as easy. But working to find solutions to these problems through government or corporate intervention is so important. The Indian banking industry will only continue to grow and they might prove to the rest of the world a change in organizational policies are worth an initial investment.