Recently the Uday Kotak Committee on Corporate Governance talked about ensuring gender diversity on the board of a company. It called for mandating the appointment of at least one woman as an independent director. This comes as no surprise to us. In the India Responsible Business Index 2016, we found out that more than 30% of the top companies did not talk about their commitment to ensure diversity on their boards.
No organisation can become a responsible business unless it makes a conscious effort to close gender gaps – right from their boardrooms to the very last woman worker they employ.
Since 2006, every year the World Economic Forum brings out the Global Gender Gap Report to track gender disparities and analyses gaps in four areas – health, education, economics and politics.
India ranked 108th among 144 countries on the Global Gender Gap Index 2017 – clearly not a position to be proud of. After the report was released, India’s appalling rank made it to news for a few days and the discussion died down soon after.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 explains why India fell to the 108th position. Here are 4 important questions you should be asking about India’s poor performance:
1. What happened to women’s participation in the Indian economy?
The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 says that India has closed 67% of its labour market participation gender gap. But don’t be fooled by this figure.
The economic participation and opportunities for women are so negligible that India was ranked 139, making it the 6th lowest country in this sub index.
To get the real picture, you need to look at the socio-cultural realities that are represented by these numbers.
Although the ‘working woman’ has broken the traditional mould, women still lag behind in technical education and access to jobs. Employers prefer recruiting male workers in certain industries. Also, a number of women do not return to work after marriage or childbirth because they are burdened with extra care work.
Even if a woman manages to have a job, that does not ensure that she will have a good position or role. The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 points out that Indian women are missing from leadership positions like those of legislators, senior officials, managers and also as professional and technical workers.
Do you know how many women are in the Indian workforce? Only 27% of Indian women are in the labour force, says a report released by the World Bank in March 2017. India has the second-lowest female labour force participation rate in South Asia. The report which analysed data from 2004-05 to 2011-12 revealed another fact you might not know – 19.6 million women exited the workforce during this time period.
All these figures indicate that businesses, government and civil society need to make a massive attempt to enable greater economic opportunities & participation for women.
2. What happened to women’s wages in India?
Here’s another shocking statistic from the Global Gender Gap Report 2017 – on an average, 66% of women’s work in India is unpaid, compared to 12% of men’s.
Indian women perform a huge amount of care work that involves looking after their households, families and the community but they are not compensated monetarily for it. Ironically, the labour force excludes women who do unpaid care work.
Now that definitely says something about how women struggle in India to get paid in the first place or make as much money as their male co-workers.
According to Getting to Equal 2017, a report published by Accenture Research – men earn 67% more than women in India. So, why are women paid lower than men? Accenture attributes this to a higher number of men who happen to be in leadership positions with better educational opportunities as compared to women.
3. What happened to Indian women’s health and survival?
A very serious concern is India’s extremely poor performance in the area of health and survival. Ranked at 141 on this sub index, it is the fourth-lowest in the world when it comes to gender health/survival gap. India has the 117th place in the area of healthy life expectancy and 141th for sex ratio at birth.
The report goes on to state that India has remained the world’s least-improved country on this subindex over the last 10 years.
A highly skewed sex ratio, inadequate nutrition and lack of access to healthcare continue to be big problems facing Indian girls and women.
The recent Economic Survey 2018 revealed that 21 million girls in India were ‘unwanted’ children – their parents wanted a boy but had a girl instead. This number is a result of analysing the sex ratio of the last child and shows that parents keep having children until they get sons. According to the survey, maternal malnutrition continues to be a major challenge in India.
4. What happened to women in Indian politics?
Indira Gandhi became the first woman Prime Minister of India in 1966 and fifty years on, we have a handful of women as political leaders. Women politicians face many problems – gender prejudice, lack of funds for campaigning, online bullying and harassment.
The Global Gender Gap Report 2017 takes a note of this negative trend. It stresses on the need for a new generation of female political leadership in India so that it can maintain its global top 20 ranking in the area of political empowerment.
In 2017, UN Women released world rankings based number of women parliamentarians from 193 UN member countries. Guess where India was placed? 148th! The percentage of women in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha is as low as 11% and 11.8% respectively.
In 1996, a constitutional amendment bill was proposed to reserve 33% of Lok Sabha and State Assembly seats for women. After more than 20 years, it is still languishing in the Parliament due to repeated opposition.
The only positive news from the Global Gender Gap Report 2017 is that India has fully closed the gap in primary and secondary education enrolment. The gap in tertiary education is small now and hopefully will be closed very soon.
The questions raised by India’s poor performance on the Global Gender Gap Index 2017 cannot be ignored. It is not just the responsibility of the government to close these gender gaps. The biggest players of India Inc have the power to leverage finance, data and technology to push for gender equality.
If you’d like to learn more about gender pay gap, read 5 facts you need to know about gender pay gap in India.