Sreehari R Rao: Transforming Women’s Leadership


In an insightful conversation at the ET Prime Women Leadership Awards (ETPWLA) 2023 edition, Sreehari R Rao, Founder and Director of Accrete Executive Search, sheds light on the India Inc diversity playbook and the unconscious biases hindering women’s progress in leadership positions. Rao outlines a blueprint for enabling women to overcome hurdles in the Indian corporate landscape, from drafting gender-neutral job descriptions to eliminating performance biases.

Rao emphasizes the importance of societal support for women to sustain their careers, citing examples of women COOs who are still expected to fulfil traditional domestic responsibilities. He decodes the barriers that hinder women from joining and thriving in the workforce, including societal pressure to marry and the need to abandon careers midway. However, Rao acknowledges positive changes in encouraging women to return to work, particularly in startups and multinational companies.

The conversation delves into the Great Indian Leadership bias, revealing a significant disparity in women’s representation at the leadership level. Rao explains that despite corporate efforts to improve diversity ratios, unconscious biases persist, often resulting in token representation rather than meaningful inclusion.

Progressive measures are being adopted by some Indian organizations, such as gender sensitization programs, gender-neutral job descriptions, and educating senior leaders to address unconscious biases. Rao emphasizes the importance of removing performance expectations that disproportionately affect women’s promotions compared to their male counterparts.

Re-reported from the story originally published in

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