A Discourse on Women and Workforce in India
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Shri Narendra Modi, Honorable Prime Minister of India in his recent Mann ki Baat radio program said: “Our dream of New India is an India where women are empowered, strengthened, where they become equal partners in the all-round development of the country.” It is heartening to see the women in our country are making slow yet sure strides in being equals in every sphere of life.
Need to Kickstart a New Era
Earlier this year, World Bank report stated that India is amongst the lowest female labour force participation rates (LFPRs) in the world. Low female LFPR, in particular, is a drag on gross domestic product (GDP) growth and an obstacle towards reaching a higher growth path. Other countries like China have 64% of its women working, which is one among the highest rates in the world. In the US, the rate is over 56%. Even countries like Nepal and Bangladesh are doing much better than India. A major section of India’s female workforce usually drop out of work after marriage and or after children are born. There is exists empirical data that suggests that most of the women who dropped out are unable to get back to their careers due to impediments of societal norms and other problems such career breaks and jobs with changing schedule that do not allow us to maintain work-life balance. So they end up taking prolonged breaks. However, such career breaks also put the brakes on the national economy; the lives and wealth of women affect everyone. The bright light at the end of the tunnel is that India Inc. is rising up to embrace these challenges and create a holistic work environment for all. Change doesn’t happen overnight but hopefully, for India, it has surely started.
Women Workforce – A Necessity
The advantages of having women as a part of the workforce are manifold. On a micro level, working women become financially independent and will have greater control over their own lives. This encourages women to stand against physical and emotional abuse, enabling them to handle social issues and pressures on their own. The families of working women are also able to enjoy a higher quality of living due to additional income. At the macro level, greater participation of women in the workforce is good for the overall economy. The McKinsey Global Institute report 2016 estimates that improved gender diversity can add $12 trillion to the world GDP by 2025. By increasing gender parity, India can add $700 billion to the global GDP.
Unfortunately, it is a reality that most Indian office conditions are geared for a male workforce and are often not conducive to female employees. Organizations should adopt steps to break this disparity and make life easier for women especially new moms. Apart from offering 6 months paid maternity leave, companies should give them additional 3-month leave system which can be encashed upon if required. Secondly, let them work from the comfort of their home until they are ready to be back in office. Even when they are back to work, make sure women have flexible working hours so that they can balance both home and work in an optimal manner. I encourage organizations to intentionally look at hiring competent women workforce who have taken work breaks to support and empower women.
Women help build an inspiring work culture by bringing in healthy competition, fostering teamwork, bonding and thereby helping the company grow to its full potential. Imagine how bland lives would be without women adding the much-needed flavour and fibre not only in workplaces but also in our daily lives. I believe that every woman is Extraordinary or to put it in relevance to our times – She is #ExtraordiNAARI.