Women: Worth and Work in India

Gender Balance in the Workplace (UK) 2011

Gender Balance in the Workplace (UK) 2011

There has been a flurry of media attention in India, and resulting social media interest and activism supporting women in India.

What is a concern, is the diminishing representation of women in the workforce of India as stated by numerous media representatives. Reactions and statements of public figures in India, surprisingly convey inequalities in a social system that was failing. Gender balance policies are ineffective and rejected by the communities it serves. A harsh reality comes to the surface for policy makers and legal system alike.

From HR and employer perspective, effective planning and resourcing issues will be a major concern. It is a case of dealing with cultural issues in business; re-evaluating current HR practice and policies; assessing workforce trends and recruitment drives to ensure gender balance ensues.

There is currently great emphasis on gender balance globally. Also, India is implementing skills programmes as part of the national policy drive to up-skill all individuals by 2022. This is resulting in the commissioning of various national occupational standards, in line with employer demand; supporting vocational education initiatives.

In order for a skills system to work on a national scale, it is not just employers that need to be fully informed of developments. Supporting the uptake of skills solutions, are the learners and their vested interest in self-development and employability. Careers are not gender specific and yet what is very difficult to elicit is the labour market intelligence that supports such drives.

Ideally, India should hold shared access of labour market intelligence that informs skills development, policies and practice.

Why an infographic of gender balance in the UK?

We have created an info-graphic (on the right), from UK gender data in the workplace, which is supported in the UK by professional bodies. Having searched through the internet, we cannot find specific data on women in India, in the workplace; that is either current or as informative. Data supports the need for action and evaluation. Without this, any policy action seems baseless.

From desk research, there are two notable articles to consider about women in the workplace (India):
One that highlights India as the worst offender of women in workplace statistics compared globally: http://southasia.oneworld.net/resources/indias-trends-in-women-workforce#.UPQNV85FCmQ
Today’s news ‘India’s missing women workforce’: http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/dd8OFniJdurubBOoNJeoHK/Indias-missing-women-workforce.html?ref=related

National Issue:
What we are aware of in India, is the huge potential and growth of female entrepreneurs from the creativity, arts, rural (agriculture) and domestic (unorganised) sector. What we are not quite informed by from the employer perspective is what proportion of women in the education system, will commit to employment – or entry to employment.

India is an able country, within the BRIC establishment, with significant potential. What should inform policy is labour market data that proves policy decisions and operational activity.

Employer highlights:
From the HR perspective
– Do we support progression holistically and across the whole organisation?
– Do we have barriers to progression?
– Do we hold current, valid and effective HR policy and practice?
– Are all our policy and practices inclusive of equality and diversity?
– Are gender issues addressed?
– Is our workforce planning inclusive of the surrounding talent, labour market and skills demographics?
– Do we provide clear, transparent and open succession planning initiatives?
– How do we deal with policy imperatives such as health and safety, equality and diversity, and ethical grievances?
– How are grievances reported?
– What are the outcomes of policy actions implemented?
– How often are policy imperatives evaluated?
– Are line managers equipped with current knowledge, to support effective workplace practice?
– Do we have senior female role models that can challenge conflicts effectively?

More specifically for women in the workplace:
– Is our workplace friendly, inviting and culturally supportive for work and gender balance?
– Do women have a supportive environment, that encourages development, productivity, and progression?
– If women have an issue at work; do they have a supportive network they can call upon for support?
– Is the workplace hindering effective working?
– How do we ensure fair individual performance measures and reviews?
– How often do we get together to discuss essential concerns, learning and effective practice?
– Simple logistics: Transport to and from work | Time of work and worker expectations | Childcare arrangements | Family friendly policies

Culturally, there is a lot to be shared and openly discussed. Individual accountability in the workplace will support holistic learning and development opportunities – i.e. where indifference and discrimination is questioned and actioned. Open discussions sharing workplace concerns will improve culture and re-assert values, beliefs and understanding. A culture that values differences, will be educating and liberating for those that are oppressed or even suppressed from learning, work participation and progression opportunities.

It isn’t enough just to educate Indian women (only to be seen for them to work in supporting roles and not even in middle or senior management) – but actually support gender balance in the workplace and talent to the top of the organisation. A diverse workforce is one that is accepting, open and encouraging, with enormous growth potential.

There are examples of women in senior management in India, but not enough. There are plenty of examples where women struggle to get into work, let alone working hours without guilt from family or being led by family escort to ensure safety to and from the workplace.

Until, India starts addressing these core fundamental issues, do we find a safer place for women in India – one that values women’s worth and actually commends input.

An attempt by Bollywood, to showcase workplace discrimination and harassment in the newly soon-to-be-released film Inkaar on Jan 18th 2013 – let it not just be media glamorisation and big bucks. Reality is what is happening at home, in the workplace and in our lives. Let’s make positive change and address this head on. Action starts from within – be confident in your belief and values for then and only then will you be valued at home and the workplace.

For those interested in the West, this is an interview with one of the lead actors:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Entertainment/Bollywood/My-character-in-Inkaar-is-not-a-sexist-says-Arjun-Rampal/Article1-987249.aspx

Be interested to learn what you thought of my personal blog.

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