Indian women gaining economic independence
What drives Indian woman towards picking up a job? Do women in India get sufficient support at home and at work to sustain their jobs? Does a job bring equal rewards to woman as it does to man? Do women themselves come in the way of pursuing their careers or does society?
The CNN-IBN-CSDS-Indian Express State of the Nation Survey focuses the issue of Indian women and economic independence.
According to the 2001 Census of India almost 26 per cent of the total women population works in India. In rural areas the figure is considerably higher at almost 31 per cent while in urban areas the figure stands at just about 12 per cent. Of this total workforce of women more than two-thirds are engaged in agricultural work.
The Indian Express-CNN-IBN-CSDS survey quizzed about 4,000 women, a little over half in urban India, across 20 states to check how well founded these impressions are. The findings expose many myths and reveal a new face of the working women in India.
What do such views tell about the Indian woman? CNN-IBN’s Business Editor Paromita Chatterjee asked this to Ritu Nanda, Chairperson, RNIS, Reema Nanavaty, Director, Economic and rural development, SEWA, Hema Ravichandran, Strategic HR consultant and Ashwini Kakkar Vice Chairman, Mercury Travels.
Economic independence of Indian women
According to the survey we asked women, who don’t work, that if they were given an opportunity to work from home would they grab it. 58 per cent women said they would like to work from home. Amongst those below 25 years 67 per cent would like to work from home. Almost 34 per cent working women said that they would like to work from home if given that opportunity.
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The survey shows only 11 per cent of the total working forces coming up from urban India. How important is economic independence to the Indian women. What’s been the motivating factor for women when they come up and join the entire career cycle?
Answering to the question Ravichandran said, “The most important reason really is that women want to use their higher education that have gained whether it’s a medical degree or management degree, they want to augment their economic situation of their families, they want to be enriched in the way that they perceive themselves not just a homemaker but also as a organisation changer. They want to be able to contribute to the industry to the economy. I think this is a very key driving force. It’s driving more women to move in to the industrial segment. It is also encouraging more women to delay key incidents like marriage, child birth and spend more time in the working space as single women.”
So what’s the reason that a woman goes out to work? 61 per cent of them work to earn money while 14 per cent work to earn respect in society and an equal number work just for job satisfaction. Fifty seven per cent office goers said that they are respected more in their families because they work but only 27 per cent manual workers are respected.
There are much larger proportion of rural women who are actually going out and working. So is money the driving factor and the reality which makes them go out and work.
Nanavaty agreed to the fact and said, “We have about 1 million women who have been organised and the main reason for them is economic self reliance. The more they are economically secure they are able to deal with other social aspects in a much better way. The other reason is that along with economic security it brings dignity and self-respect for them within the family and within the society.”
In 1963, women spoke out and were able to initiate the forming of the law called the Equal Pay Act, an amendment to the already existing Fair Labor Standards Act. The act requires employers to pay all employees equally for equal work, regardless of their gender. However, this law has a very big weakness; it only applies when men and women are doing the exact same work, yet in the past, women have ...
“They are able to ensure livelihood security for them and that helps in improving the quality of life, proper education for their children and better health care services. Therefore most of our members think that full employment and self-reliance is what they would want in terms of economic security. “
However, talking about the motivating factor for women going out for jobs Nanda said, “My husband is a total workaholic and I thought for my marriage to last I must do something. Working was the best thing happened to me as an individual. I got more respect for my husband I had more value for whatever he did. It gave me respect and identity.”
One central figure, which always plays the dominant role is the man in the family. Is today’s Indian man really ready to accept a working women?
“Its very important to understand that all this comes at a great price for the women. Then she has to responsible for both the role and the urban pressure obviously leading to lot of divorces as well. For example 2 out of 5 persons in Mumbai in the last few years who have gotten married are getting divorced. These are things which are very crucial. But I believe that every women must have the right to chose economic independence and that will come only through education, ” Kakkar opined.
He also said that in our country what is equally important is that the GDP number should account for the effort that every women puts into every family.
Women start out with great careers but somewhere down the line are arguably forced to take a break. Sometimes the reasons are personal, sometimes it’s go to do with the workplace.
What bothers a working woman most at a workplace?
Thirty-five per cent women feel bothered if they are paid less than their male counterparts, 14 per cent feel they don’t get “deserving positions” and 22 per cent feel they are harassed at work.
Ravichandran explained why women feel troubled at the work place. Keeping her focus firmly on the gender issue, she said women face these problems because they are not assertive enough. “We also find that in Indian workplace, rewards are given on harder work not to people achieving results. We must teach managers to reward for results and not for time spent on work,” she asserted.
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While Kakkar agreed there was a glass ceiling that needed to be broken for male bosses failed to understand a woman’s perspective when it came to remuneration, he also said women were suited for certain “kind” of jobs.
He pointed out, for example, that women did exceptionally well in careers like Human Resource Management and medicine. “It is every woman’s birth right to get equal opportunity in employment. That sadly isn’t completely true in Indian environment and needs to change. Women are much better at certain kind of things especially if it’s a nurturing kind of job profile,” he said.
Statistics show in the rural sector women’s disenchantment rates are slightly higher, probably because it’s the men doing the hiring in those sectors. Nanavati pointed out that women were very capable of running their own business enterprise, whether it was in agri-sector or textiles. “It’s the problem of a mindset. We have seen that women can run their own banks and no matter whether they are urban or rural, they can manage their own stuff,” she said, adding it was only a matter of giving them an opportunity.
All the panelists agreed things are changing, albeit at a slow pace. Nanda cited Indira Nooyi as an example. However she also said that a part-time occupation worked out better for most women. “It depends on a woman’s priorities and at what stage of life she is in. Whether she works part-time or full-time, the reality is that women can work hard. Science proves it too,” she insisted.
Ravichandran too felt the situation was changing for the better with more and more women realizing and playing to their strengths. “When they play to their strengths, you get great role models,” she pointed out.
Women are bringing about a change themselves regardless of the change (or the lack of it) at their workplace.
Do working women get family’s support?
An overwhelming majority of office-going respondents – 63 percent – said they got ample support from their families while they went about shaping their careers.
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The figure came down to 45 per cent for the self-employed women and was the lowest – 28 percent – for women working as manual labourers.
The stats seem to indicate that the lower a woman is down the skill ladder, the lesser support she gets from the family. “The family support comes very gradually. It takes at least two to three years till she starts getting hard cash,” said Nanavati.
Ravichandran agreed that she wouldn’t have made it to the Infosys HR had it not been for her parents and in-laws who supported her through thick and thin. “The most important is your life partner. So choose your life partner carefully – one who will support and encourage you. Of course, the extended family too must help,” she pointed out.
She also pointed out that it was easy for the second-generation woman. “A helping mother and mother-in-law provide a nourishing environment,” she said.
Nanda – who’s also a mother-in-law – agreed with Ravichandran and said she would encourage her daughter-in-law to work too. “It’s a new way to flirt with your man – you earn respect through the work that you do,” she said.
Nanda also said the equations were changing from the clichéd “Behind every successful man…” to “Behind every successful woman, there’s a man.”
The argument also found favour with the only man on the panel – Ashwini Bhatt.
“I think there’s a growing realisation on this count. It will go a long way in support that men can extend. It may take time but it will happen. Men cannot give birth to children. That’s one area where women definitely score over men. Additionally, this also puts more pressure on women,” he pointed out.
Conclusion: The findings of the survey indicate, broadly, that women – specially the middle-class working women – are finding much greater acceptability and respect when they go out, join a career and pursue it to the hilt.