Looking Through The Gender Lens

Looking Through The Gender Lens

With the onslaught of the pandemic, women have been forced to give up jobs and stay home to fulfil the responsibility of homemakers. The question we must ask ourselves is whether India is leaving her women behind.


The pandemic has triggered a series of unprecedented issues worldwide, and it has been an overwhelming era for everyone, both socially and economically. However, while COVID-19 has affected people from all areas of life, it has become increasingly clear that the impact on women has been disproportionately severe. As a result, policymakers, civil society organisations, economists, social sector funders, and grassroots leaders are all attempting to assess the pandemic’s impact on women in order to develop a gender-responsive recovery strategy.


In a developing economy, conventional wisdom suggests that more women will enter paid labour as employment opportunities and education levels rise. The Indian experience, on the other hand, has been very different. Indian women’s education has improved, their fertility rates have decreased. However, from 42.7 % in 2004–05 to 23.3% in 2017–18, the women’s labour force participation rate (LFPR) has decreased. This indicates that three out of every four Indian women are neither working nor looking for paid labour, placing India among the worst ten countries in the world with regard to female labour participation.


A Dismal Representation


Women’s workforce representation in India is dismally low across all functions, be it in the boardrooms, in mid or senior leadership roles or at entry-level positions. What made matters worse is the pandemic that has driven out thousands of women from the workforce because of the challenges it has presented.


It is critical to understand what’s at the root of this paradox. Are women quitting their jobs of their own free will or is it due to structural limits or societal issues? If it is the latter, businesses and the government must rapidly rethink their economic recovery strategy, keeping the country’s women in mind.


Over the years, the Government has initiated a number of measures to increase women’s involvement across sectors. Several protective provisions have been included in labour regulations to encourage women’s hiring and create a pleasant working environment for them. These include the increase in paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks, requiring a crèche facility in businesses with 50 or more employees, allowing women to work night shifts with proper safety precautions, and so on. In addition, the Government is giving training to female workers through a network of women industrial training institutes alongside National and Regional vocational training institutes to improve their employability.


Comprehending The Expectations


While the Government has taken these various steps to generate employment in the country, India’s experience suggests that we cannot depend solely on economic growth to improve women’s LFPR. A country with a large population — especially a large working-age population — cannot simply follow growth patterns from countries with fewer people. To raise women’s LFPR, Indian leaders must first comprehend what women expect and desire. The correct sort of growth, one that is genderinclusive in terms of job prospects, is the way forward, necessitating the involvement of businesses in bridging the gaps and supporting women’s higher employability in the workforce.


Today, we live in a business world that is much more aware of the needs of women. However, this is most evident in large corporations and forward-thinking businesses, such as startups, that have been building such facilities and changing office layouts and mindsets to accommodate female employees, including diversity targets that they are working towards. However, there are still gaps in the workplace that need to be filled and much more needs to be done in order for women to prosper and grow in a safe atmosphere.


As the trends in the business world change, the gig economy, which is on the rise, can be an excellent opportunity for women to contribute their valuable skills while at the same time retaining flexibility.


Making The Changes


As cultural behaviours change and Indian society more broadly supports Indian women in managerial positions, organisations need to be more open and make appropriate changes in their workplace. Few such recommendations listed below may be considered for Organisations looking to promote a supportive workplace for women and propel their growth in their respective fields: 


• Develop policies that promote a female-friendly workplace. 


• Establish women’s training initiatives, such as mentorships, career counselling, and leadership development.


• Encourage public awareness campaigns that emphasise the importance of women in leadership positions.


• Create fast track programmes that can repair the “broken rung” which can then evolve into a seamless succession planning pipeline


• Obtain employee feedback on women’s policy, promotions, and performance evaluation systems. 


• Make provisions for women in areas such as need-based assignments. Both spouses are posted to the same location or state, as is done in the civil service. 


• Make a sincere commitment to hiring and promoting women, as well as including women into your annual business strategy.


• Even creating informal women support groups and ally programmes within the women workforce can help in counselling, support, ideas sharing and problem solving as there is a better understanding of shared challenges.


It has been seen that economic results are best when men and women work in a gender-balanced fashion, whether at work or at home. Several studies have also pointed out that male-female teams routinely make better investments, produce better goods, generate higher returns, and have fewer failures. In addition, couples who split housework and paid employment at home have closer ties with their children, more egalitarian ideals, less interpersonal conflict, and tend to be more productive members of society.


As per current trends, gender-neutral policies do not produce genderequal outcomes. As a result, policy measures aimed at increasing women’s participation in the workforce must acknowledge the generality of gender stereotypes that lead to occupational divisions, such as unequal learning and skill-development opportunities. To eliminate the gender wage gap, India must also find ways to recognise and institutionalise men and women sharing care labour and aggressively endeavour to offer a safe, level playing field for its women to succeed and become economic leaders. In addition, women should expect to find increased acceptance in the workplace as companies embrace newer work practices.


To conclude, there is nothing that could stop women from breaking the social norms, shedding off inhibitions and standing at par with men in any of the male-dominated industries. However, for that to happen, working women in India must be first given a chance to occupy the same space as men at the workplace.

Kankana Barua is Group CHRO, Healthium, and is responsible for the transformation and integration of the Group Companies. She has previously worked as CPO at Tally Solutions, SVP & Global HR Head at Jubilant Drug Discovery and Development Services. Kankana has completed her Company Secretary course from ICSI and is the First Women Company Secretary from the North East. She is also a Law Graduate and holds a PGDHRM degree from Pondicherry University.


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