Why it is important for Indian women to stay in the career game
The world’s most populous democracy could benefit more if Indian women had stable careers The fact that India has one of the lowest Female Labor Force Participation (FLFP) among all the fast-growing economies in the world is no surprise anymore. In comparison to a global average of 40%, Indian women represent only 24% of the total paid labour force, as per a McKinsey Global Institute report. The same report also reiterated how Indian women faced extremely high inequality on several work-related indicators like labour-force participation rate, professional and technical jobs, unpaid care work, wage gap and leadership positions. The last decade has also seen debates and discourses on why an increasing number of educated Indian women are choosing to fall out of their illustrious career leagues. Though the reasons that prompt these women to prioritize are aplenty, here are a few pointers as to why Indian women should continue to up their career game instead of calling it quits:
Breaking stereotypesRepressive cultural attitudes that stereotype women who put their careers first are one of the chief reasons for the dismal percentage of female labour force participation in India. Till today, having a career for women is seen as an indulgence for she is first expected to conform to household chores and maternal roles. A 2016 survey conducted by Social Attitudes Research India covering Delhi, Mumbai, UP and Rajasthan showed how a significant share of men and women interviewed felt it was alright for women (whose husbands earn enough) to not work outside home. Though improved education and employment opportunities are allowing more women to enter the workforce with optimism, they are more likely to take long career breaks owing to family responsibilities. This then hinders many deserving women to reach the top of corporate hierarchies. Hence, today there is a greater need than ever for women of the present to shatter existing stereotypes and be role models for generations to come.
Imbalanced workforceAccording to the World Bank report titled ‘Precarious Drop: Reassessing Patterns of Female Labor Force Participation in India,’ India stands at the 121st position among the 131 countries ranked for Female Labour Force Participation. With just over of quarter of workforce being female, it is evident how the employment scene is India is highly skewed. Moreover, lack of salaried jobs in the organized sector and sex-based occupational segregation has categorically pushed Indian women to take up low paying jobs in the informal economy. Today sectors like telecom, IT, banking that promise fast growth and high payments are all dominated by men while there is a simultaneous feminization of casual labour jobs such as domestic work, caregiving, waste picking etc… By achieving greater gender parity, it is estimated that India could add 2.9 trillion dollars to its annual Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2025.
Inconvenience v/s regretUnlike financially and socially evolved western economies, India is yet to provide its womenfolk conducive work environments that do not discriminate against them based on their sex. Lack of proper maternity leaves, benefits, and crèche facilities often inconvenience women who prefer to give up than demand their rightful job entitlements. Discussions on the Hush platform regarding existing gender pay gaps in India’s IT capital, Bengaluru points out how the sexist practice thrives in the corporate sector. Be it for the reason of motherhood, or migration due to marriage, the Human Resource wings of various companies are skeptical while hiring women for top positions. Particular discussion threads on Hush also saw women open up about discrimination at the workplace, the absence of daycare facilities etc… However, it is also documented how an increasing number of women today are wanting to resume their professional jobs after prolonged career breaks. Hence, it boils down to the greater question of inconvenience versus regret, with the latter being the hardest to cope with for mid-career women.
Greater self-worth and independenceIt has been a proven fact that remittances earned by women are more likely to be used for the well-being of the entire family. Apart from providing them financial independence, women’s earnings also earn them better status in family set-ups and a greater say in investment related decisions. There are more than many advantages of having a greater women labour force participation in it is likely to positively impact the overall economy. Estimates also suggest that as more and more women join the workforce, they are likely to create more economic opportunities (with every working woman being capable of creating employment for 1.3 other people). Despite plausible arguments that women in India mostly have jobs and not careers, it will be interesting to note how the trend will change for the better in the crucial years ahead.