There has been much exhilaration about India’s fast GDP growth in recent times. But against the backdrop of International Women’s Day 2019, the social and economic realities of Indian women demand critical analysis.
According to the International Labour Organisation data published in September 2018, female labour force participation rate (LFPR) in India is 26.97, whereas the same rate was 35.11 in 1990. The present female LFPR in China is 60.87, in Japan it is 50.42, in the United Kingdom it is 56.86 and in the US it is 55.48. The World Bank stated in its India Development Report released in May 2017 that India had one of the lowest female participations in the workforce, ranking 120th among the accounted 131 countries.
Annette Dixon, Vice President, World Bank- South Asia, said at The Economic Times Women’s Forum held in Mumbai last year, “Valuing girls and women is a critical factor in making societies more prosperous and my experience of working in other countries shows this. Women’s economic empowerment is highly connected with poverty reduction as women also tend to invest more of their earnings in their children and communities.”
Professor, Department of Economics,
Dean, Faculty of Arts (Acting)
Director, IQAC, University of Calcutta said, “The women labour force participation rate in India fell from 32.7% in 2004-05 (61st round NSSO sampling) to 24.8% in 2011-12 (68th round) in rural sector and from 16.6% to 14.7% in urban sector. Altogether, it is 24% now according to the Economic Survey, 2018. The male participation however has remained almost same at around 54% over the same period of time.”
Professor Gupta opined, “With more automation, the women lose their jobs before the men do and with the opening up of the economy, the women lose in competition as more and more locally made goods get replaced by the globally manufactured ones. With the closing down of factories, men losing their jobs get easily absorbed in the informal sector doing odd jobs but women get more involved in the household sector, much of which is not recognised as productive work at all. This is what is exactly happening in India over the last two decades. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) has been helpful in some states in creating employment for women though the employment generated is largely informal in nature.” She added, “Unless more women are drawn into productive work participation, the Indian GDP will remain much below the expected level.”
Despite the fact that female literacy and education enrolment rates have been rising, India still has a low level of women’s workforce participation as compared to many countries. The Indian government should take serious measures to increase their participation in the country’s workforce. The unrealised contribution from Indian women to the Indian economy is a major obstacle to the country’s development process.
One of the biggest barriers for engaging women is societal. While parents in both rural and urban India are increasingly willing to invest in educating their daughters, the idea of women working outside the home is still frowned upon in many parts of the country. The social identification of family ‘honour’ is deeply rooted in societally specified gender roles.
The social implications of the slower pace of women’s economic empowerment are related to the ossified patriarchal attitudes that believe that the safest space for a woman is her home. Women who break such societal barriers find it difficult to break into better paying jobs. Data suggest that women in India are largely employed in the informal, semi- or unskilled sector such as domestic work where incomes are low and there are limited benefits or job security.
BE spoke to some inspirational women achievers —
I believe women should be ‘authentic’ and ‘be who they are’ because that is the real value and diversity of thought that they bring to the professional world. As you grow, you realise that it is important to embrace your strengths and weaknesses rather than hide them. To be a successful leader, you need to be self-aware and build an ecosystem - more importantly a team that complements you and enables you to work towards your collective vision.
The same applies to maintaining a healthy work life balance. There is no such thing as a daily balance. There will be demanding times at work, and at a personal level, and it is critical that you build your pillars of strength that support you in your personal life just like those at your workplace.
Dr. Somdutta Singh
Founder and CEO, Unspun Group and
Ex- Vice- Chairperson, Nasscom Product Council
I have always been an ardent follower of the wisdom of Swami Vivekananda. He had once said, “Take risks in your life. If you win, you can lead! If you lose, you can guide!” Over the course of my life, I have encountered several non-believers, people who have criticised me, people who have constantly found faults in me. Instead, I am rather grateful to them, because, when they thought I wouldn’t be able to break the stereotype because I am a woman, my resolve to approach life with the belief that I could achieve anything, strengthened. Like I always say, "Dignity is not a gift, don’t ask for it. You are made of it!" But, success doesn't come easy and some of the best successes arise out of the most daunting stories. While I have been constantly climbing the ladder to success, I've had to make huge sacrifices on my way. You have to constantly juggle between sustenance, perseverance, ideology and balance of evolution as a person. Empowerment is not about gender equality alone, it’s about letting someone with passion and the right attitude pursues their dreams.
Senior Vice President and General Manager, Manhattan Associates
It is encouraging to see organisations taking initiatives to promote women focused initiatives. I can see the change that is coming about and that is very heartening. However, companies must be cognizant of the fact that it is on skill, capability and merit alone that roles are assigned. When we look at the technology scenario in India, there is absolutely no dearth of female talent. In fact, it has been observed that start-ups with women members are relatively successful. Women possess creative ability and perseverance, which are all advantages in becoming tech leaders.
Rakshak Foundation and
Mrs. International Classic-2018
A successful career is built on the foundation of hard work, perseverance, tenacity, and a string of helpful habits, which help you succeed. When it comes to succeeding as a woman in a man's world, you have to work a little harder to balance your professional commitments along with your family and social commitments. It requires planning, prioritising, and multi-tasking. The 3Cs- confidence, conviction and commitment- are the keys to success.