The Gender Banter: Implications of Not Practicing What We Preach

In this post, Balasubramanian A (VP & Business Head, Consumer and Healthcare, TeamLease Services) reflects on the research paper by Rituparna Chakraborty, Satish Rajan, Shailesh Bhatwalkar, and Ayushi Agarwal, “Flexing in the Gig Economy Ripple Effect,” published in the NHRD Network Journal. In their article on the so-called “gig ecosystem” they focus on areas like employment of women in the formal sector, the role of new-age start-ups, the implications of newly formed labor codes, the point of view of unions and others that are part of this ecosystem.

Background:
Being a woman is very special but being a woman is not easy, at least not when it comes to participating in meaningful and paid work. Women empowerment happens in the true sense and to its fullest extent when the organizations give importance to the power of inclusion of women at work, giving them equal participation opportunities.

Challenges:
There is a major challenge for organizations and their leaders to standardize the concerns related to gender equality and the quality of work designated to the workforce. The implications of not practicing what we preach will broaden the gender disparity of the workforce in India, which will contribute to a higher rate of attrition in job roles taken up by women. Unfortunately, this would end up widening the skill gap, and creating an occupational divide. Women, usually considered as the primary caregivers, have to stay back home, take care of domestic responsibilities and take the burden of familial tasks over everything else. As per IMF research in 2018, women’s unpaid domestic work is estimated to be valued at almost 27 percent of its current GDP.

Problems:
● According to the TeamLease data of 2021, the hiring by gender is 88:12, indicating that less than one-fourth of Indian women are at work.
● According to Global Gender Gap Report 2021, the gender gap in India has widened to 62.5% and has slipped 28 places, ranked 140 out of 153.
● Between 2011 and 2020, the labor force participation rate for women remained slightly over 48% and declined gradually to 46 percent in 2020 as per ILO.
● It is also observed that 82 percent of women in prime working-age in one-person households participated in the labor force, compared to 64 percent of women in couple-only households and 48 percent of women in couple households with children.

Points to ponder upon:
Solving a piece of the gender banter puzzle is not the solution. Understanding that the main problem is not to just bring women back, but to help them in the transition. Skilling is one step forward to making women more employable. What can inspire women would be increased female participation in leadership roles, more women as role models and mentors. Women while re-entering the workforce need psychological support more than tangible support. It would additionally be a changing trend to see more women in male-dominated roles like delivery partners, pilots, construction and manufacturing workers, architecture, automotive and so on to name a few. Key initiatives by the government and the organizations: Various welcoming initiatives like Mahila-E-Haat, Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandna Yojna, National Crèche Scheme among others have been taken by the government to accelerate the inclusion of women in the workforce. In addition to this, Corporate India has also taken steps in the form of policies and benefits for maternity, flexibility, off-location and hybrid work models, to name a few.

Some of the solutions to the problem:
● Women want to be in a formalized working environment. Workforce in blue-collar jobs,
labor and marginalized communities of women to be given opportunities.
● More women entrepreneurs are needed that will create more opportunities for all but
especially women.
● To recruit more women, the job postings should be more inclusive.
● Initiate schemes for skilling, upskilling and reskilling for women returning back to work
along with psychological support.
● Strategic need to have a DE&I policy in place; ensure the execution to nurture a diverse,
resilient workplace.
● Creating women’s workforce support bodies and awareness programs that can bridge the
wider gap between the problems and solutions.
● Flexible working options and gender equality policies will be encouraging.

As it was famously said, “When you educate a man, you educate a person, but when you educate a woman, you educate an entire generation.” The same applies to empowering women to find their footing in organized employment. We think the saying, in this case, would go like this, “When you employ a man, you empower a person, but when you employ a woman, you empower the many generations.” If we fail at the inclusion of women in the workforce, we will be losing on economic growth and sustainable development, Let’s #BreaktheBarrier with a better platform, and numerous opportunities for women as we celebrate International Women’s Day and bring into practice what we preach.

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