How Can Companies Ensure Gender Parity in the Workplace Only such a societal and mindset change would provide women with an equal playing field when it comes to the labour force market

By Manuraj Shunmugasundaram

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When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked why his newly constituted Cabinet has 50% women, he replied rather casually "because it is 2016". In 2018, India still awaits its Trudeau moment when it comes to gender parity, but the number of voices speaking out continues to grow.

Related : Gender Pay Gap Reduced But Do Indian Women Earn More? 25% Lesser Says Survey

Gender Gap in India

The Economic Survey 2018 has pegged the gender gap in labour force participation in India to be around 50 percentage points. The gender gap is worse for women working in the low-skilled informal sector but it is also bad for women working full-time jobs. The greatest participation of women can be seen in the sectors of health and education, where there is an almost equal gender ratio. The situation is slightly less balanced in the Information Technology/ Business Process Outsourcing sector where there are 3 women for every 7 men. But, in the areas of manufacturing, construction, transport and restaurant, women make up less than 20% of the working population. While India is poised to add more than 100 million people to its total labour force in the next 10 years, continuing gender inequality will need to be addressed. It is said that India can increase its women's labour force participation by 10 percentage points by 2025, the nation's Gross Domestic Product would increase by a whopping 16%.

The World Employment and Social Outlook 2017 report estimates that a reduction in the gap in participation rates between men and women by 25 per cent by 2025 could add $1 trillion to the Indian economy. International Labour Organisation (ILO), in 2013, ranked India's Female Labour Force Participation Rate at 121 out of 131 countries. The Government has tried to improve the situation by enhancing maternity benefits. Nevertheless, it is upto every one of us to work towards a society that provides equal opportunities and also a fair treatment for women at the workplace.

Related : How Can Indian Corporates Build a Gender Inclusive Workplace

Decline in Women Labour Force

Over the last two decades or so, there is evidence, contrary to popular belief, of decline in the women labour force participation. Research into this phenomenon has revealed that this is due to the simultaneous shrinking of the agricultural sector which has traditionally employed women and an expanding service and construction sectors, which has not. With Indian economy poised to grow on the back of its manufacturing and services sectors, the corporate sector has a major role to play in ensuring gender parity.

Three simple yet effective steps that every company must take:

  1. End Pay Disparity - ensure equal pay for equal work, salaries to be decided on experience level and not on any other considerations;
  2. Provide Extensive Childcare and Maternal Benefits - understand the gendered social expectations to extend necessary facilities; and
  3. Shut Out Harassment - take all steps to end the culture of harassment which creates a toxic environment at the workplace.

Related : Is Culture and Gender Equality in India Still a Far Cry?

While companies can implement these steps without much wrangling, a larger mindset change is required within homes across the country. Women continue to face a massive disadvantage because of the disproportionate domestic and childcare workload they have to bear. In 2018, Indian men have to start sharing equal responsibility whether it is bringing up children or doing chores around the house. Only such a societal and mindset change would provide women with an equal playing field when it comes to the labour force market. Only then, can India have its Trudeau moment!

Manuraj Shunmugasundaram

Lawyer, DMK Spokesperson & Steering Committee Member - School of Policy and Governance

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