Talent & Career Issues of Female Executives in the Indian IT Industry.

Date01 April 2021
AuthorPaul, Anindita


Talent Management (TM) can be described as the activities and processes that involve the systematic attraction, identification, development, engagement, retention, and deployment of those talents which are of particular value to an organization in order to create strategic sustainable success (e.g., Boudreau & Ramstad, 2005; Scullion, Collings & Caligiuri, 2010). Talents are seen as unique strategic resources and organizations use TM to capture, leverage and protect these resources (Sparrow & Makram, 2015; Bhalla et al, 2018). Talent-related issues continues to grow in importance as organizations seek to respond to the unprecedented uncertainty and complexity of today's global business environment and also to the challenges arising from broader socio-economic, geopolitical and demographic changes (Cascio & Boudreau, 2016; Cappelli & Keller, 2014). Organizations are increasingly recognizing the need to manage talent effectively to meet their strategic objectives, and talent and leadership development was highlighted as key challenges facing both HR and CEOs (Groysberg & Connolly, 2015). However, many organisations report problems in the implementation of TM systems and lack of availability of skills and capabilities was highlighted as an important constraint to the growth of their organisations (PWC, 2017).

The field of TM has grown rapidly since the publication of the McKinsey War for Talent Report (Michaels et al, 2001; Dundon & Rafferty, 2018). The early TM literature was largely practitioner based and was not well grounded in research. The concept of talent management has lacked precise definition, and while some advances have been made, weaknesses in conceptual frameworks in the area still persists (Krishnan & Scullion, 2017). Questions also arise related to what happens in TM practice as surprisingly there is little knowledge about how TM is conceived, implemented and developed within organizations in specific contexts.

Recent work has provided some clarity to the conceptual understanding of TM. Two themes dominate TM in large enterprises--one, an exclusive approach to TM which emphasizes the importance of high potential talent and second, the systematic identification of key positions which differentially contribute to the organization's sustainable competitive advantage (Cappelli & Keller, 2014; Krishnan & Scullion, 2017). An important critique of TM is that it adopts a unitarist and managerialist orientation and fails to pay enough attention to wider stakeholder groups (Thunnissen et al., 2013; Swailes & Blackburn, 2016). Also, more attention needs to be paid to changes in the psychological contract where in recent years organizations' employment practices show reduced commitment to long term employment with employees also offering less commitment to the employer (Holland & Scullion, 2019). The rapid growth of contracting and freelancing for skilled talent in the labor market poses further challenges for TM (Friedman, 2014).

Sparrow et al. (2014) highlighted the need for TM to bring in additional insights from related fields and the growing diversity of research topics linked to TM over the last decade includes strategy, supply chain and risk management. Surprisingly however, the links between gender and TM are not well developed (Ozbilgin & Tatli, 2011; Syed, 2017), and it has been suggested that the social construction of talent has been mostly gender blind (Makarem et al, 2019). Our study focuses not only on the organizational perspective but also highlights the individual experiences and perspectives of female professionals in India IT sector, and gives voice to Indian female professionals on their talent and career concerns in this context. Our study also helps to explain why the issue of untapped female potential still persists in India and in the wider Asia Pacific region and what can organizations do to encourage female career progression.

Our focus on emphasizing the voices of the Indian women contributes to addressing a gap in the TM literature as gender issues are generally excluded from mainstream TM discourse (Makarem et al, 2019). Our literature review identifies some research gaps in this area and two exploratory case studies are used to draw unique insights into the challenges and multiple barriers facing female professionals in the Indian IT sector. In addition, we examine the organizational and individual strategies which are used to address these barriers in this specific context. Finally, based on our analysis we develop some propositions and highlight some areas for future research.

Talent Management in the Emerging Markets

While research in TM has moved beyond the focus on North American scholarship which dominated early studies in the field (Brewster, Mayrhofer & Farndale, 2018) there is a need to seek further insights from a wider range of cultural and institutional contexts (Gallardo-Gallardo, Nijs, Dries & Gallo, 2015). In particular, there is a need for more research on TM in the emerging markets (Horwitz & Budhwar, 2015; Skuza, McDonnell & Scullion, 2015). Research highlights the more complex and acute nature of TM challenges in the emerging markets (Doh, Smith, Stumpf & Tymon, 2014; Skuza, McDonnell & Scullion, 2015; Chatterjee, Nankervis & Connell, 2014). The growth of new emerging markets and the rapid growth of emerging market multinational companies (EMMNCs) have intensified the competition for talent between foreign based MNCs, local players and EMMNCs (Ramamurti, 2012). The growth of the emerging markets has considerable implications for TM including an increasing demand for a distinctive type of managerial talent which can operate effectively in culturally complex and geographically distant markets (Li & Scullion, 2010; Vaiman, Sparrow, Schuler & Collings, 2018).

A scarcity of high-level knowledge talent persists in these markets despite the slowing down in growth rates in some countries (Li & Scullion, 2010). Acute shortages of leadership, managerial and professional talent have become a major problem for firms operating in the emerging markets (Dragoni et al., 2014). However, efforts by MNCs to develop a positive reputation as an employer of choice can be problematic in some emerging markets as segmentation and exclusive approaches to TM can have negative consequences for how the organization is seen from a fairness and equity point of view in countries which have more egalitarian cultures (Bjorkman et al., 2007).

The retention of knowledge workers and professionals has emerged as a key TM challenge for many organizations in the emerging markets (Tymon, Stumpf & Doh, 2010) due to the intense competition for talents in these dynamic markets (Tung, 2016). Developing talent internally is often seen as the best option to address both organizational needs and individual needs for emerging market organizations (Ready & Peebles, 2015), as research highlights the problems associated with buying talent from the external market.

Finally, managing highly diverse employee groups is a growing challenge facing companies operating in the emerging markets (Allen, French & Poteet, 2016) reflecting the increased level of ethnic, cultural, generational and gender diversity within organizations (Festing & Schafer, 2014; Claussen et al., 2014). While there is some growth of female participation in lower levels of management in some emerging markets such as India, the female labor participation rate remains very low at 35% (McKinsey, 2017). Women continue to be significantly underrepresented in senior management positions in the emerging markets and an important challenge is to increase their participation in the pipeline which feeds those positions (Linehan &Scullion, 2008).

Talent Management in India

India, a state- regulated economy until the early 1990s, has responded to various internal and external reforms and is now considered one of the strongest emerging economies with foreign domestic investment playing an important role in economic development (Leavy, 2014) which in turn has influenced TM challenges and strategies. India was a key strategic destination for foreign direct investment in the first decade of the 2000s and continues to be the leader in IT outsourcing and is a major destination for many top companies setting up their IT innovation centers. India has developed global strengths in IT, software, outsourcing and information and communication technology related services and has become the world's fastest growing start up eco system (Thakur & Bhatnagar, 2017).

India is undergoing significant shifts in terms of workforce demographics with the younger entrants into employment having different expectations. The challenge of managing millennials is particularly significant as India has the highest millennials in the world and there is a rapid shift in workforce demographics towards a younger workforce. Millennials in India increasingly seek opportunities for learning and personal growth and organizations in India are developing new TM strategies to attract and retain this new workforce (Gulyani & Bhatnagar, 2017).

For both local Indian companies and MNCs operating in India TM is becoming increasingly important (Bhattacharyya, 2015; Krishnan, 2015). It has been argued that as Indian companies globalize, the demand for global talent will increase, increasing India's importance in the global value chain (Thite, Wilkinson & Budhwar, 2016). A recent review has highlighted the importance of finding the right balance of global and local practices to manage talent in India and to understand the India specific factors influencing TM strategy (Bhatnagar & Budwhar, 2018).

A good proportion of the population underrepresented in the talent pools from which senior management personnel are selected, will lead to organizations losing their best talents (Collings, Scullion & Vaiman, 2015). In addition, performance benefits arise when the companies pursue...

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