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How India’s largest private bank fosters gender equality

Source | McKinsey & Company

Chanda Kochhar, managing director and CEO of India’s largest private bank, ICICI, sees promising changes in Indian society toward supporting women’s efforts to be more economically and socially independent. At her company, she is pushing to recognize unconscious bias that can hinder women’s progress, being more inclusive in decision making, and providing flexible work options. In this interview with McKinsey’s Anu Madgavkar, Kochhar explains why she believes encouraging these steps is good not only for the company but also for the economy and society at large. An edited transcript of their conversation follows.

Interview transcript

I’m very optimistic about the future of women in India. First, because I think the approach of the society itself there is changing. Not just in urban India or organized India; even if I look at rural India, I see the kind of progress that, say, the self-help movement has made, which has made women independent and self-confident both economically and even thought process–wise. The whole societal approach is changing. Second, the approach of the organizations, of course, is changing. The third is that, clearly, we have girls and women in India who are very smart, very capable, and very intelligent.

The economic case for gender equality

Gender parity is no longer just a nice-to-have part of your organization or your business. I think there’s a huge business and economic case for having as many women in the organization as men—lots of reasons for it. One, of course, is that in countries like India, women make up more than 48 percent of the population. So, in a way, almost half the talent pool is women, and how can a nation or an organization grow and prosper if you ignore 50 percent of the talent pool in the country?

The second is that as economies are evolving, women are becoming a very important part of the customer base itself. So, again, as you design your businesses, your products, your services, how can you get a better understanding of that 50 percent of your customer base if you do not have a similar mind-set in your decision making?

And finally, diversity in the employee base is very important for very comprehensive decision making. Whenever you make a decision and you have diversity in the people who are making decisions, you make decisions in a much more comprehensive manner.

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