What does India need to do to recognize the potential of its daughters? Are they able to fulfill their ambitions in the current labour market?
My warmest greetings to you all!
While the labour industry has embraced the latest technological advancements and geared up for a skilled workforce to enable a sustainable ecosystem, it has become all the more necessary to promote women empowerment in this ecosystem. Despite numerous interventions by the government, NGOs, corporates and other stakeholders, based on the recent World Bank report, India has one of the lowest female participation in the workforce, ranking 120th among 131 countries. While overall job creation has been limited, most of the new ones have been grabbed by men, given the prevalent social norms, the report explains. What is even more alarming is that since 2005, the percentage of working-age Indian women who participate in the labour force has dropped by 9%, from 37% to 28%, the largest drop recorded in any country in the world during the same time period, according to ILO.
My recent experience with an employer from a small scale enterprise has raised a few red flags in my mind pertaining to women’s future in the labour market. In my opinion, there are two aspects to gender bias that need to be addressed in the society. One, from the perspective of the family and the other, from that of an employer.
With the rise in per capita income, economic conditions have improved in the country. Due to this reason, a family no longer considers educated or skilled women as ‘economic assets’ who can supplement the family’s income. As a result, a woman’s professional aspirations are left unfulfilled, especially in the case of married women. With this changing perspective on the personal front, employers, too, have got attuned to such misplaced societal norms.
From a first person observation of an interview between an employer and two of our trainees from a centre in Delhi, I have deduced that employers, too, are of the opinion that women join the workforce only if they are in dire financial need and not because they want to pursue a career of their own. While women are trying to break free from the societal shackles and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men, employers are still looking for so-called ‘feminine’ qualities in women that push them to ‘growth-less jobs’. If a woman is chosen for a role only because it is generally assumed by the employer that she would not become too ‘ambitious’ and begin to look for better opportunities in due course, then it is time to change that mindset. Stability in a job should and can never be at the cost of an individual’s career, be it a man or a woman.
While LabourNet, through its early intervention programs, has impacted around 30000 school girls across India, only a holistic change in the mindset of the society can actually help reap benefits through such interventions. The 200,000 girls and young women who have been empowered by us deserve to hold their fort which can only be possible if the current trends in the labour market change for the better.