Rise Of Women In Indian Workplaces: Breaking Stereotypes And Promoting Equality

Rise Of Women In Indian Workplaces: Breaking Stereotypes And Promoting Equality

From politics to STEM fields, women are making their mark and contributing to the growth of society and the nation. Learn about the initiatives and amendments that support women's participation in the workforce. Find out more!

Dr. Himanshi TiwarUpdated: Tuesday, March 19, 2024, 05:21 PM IST
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Author - Dr. Himanshi Tiwari Asso. Professor OB. HR, Diversity & Inclusion BIMTECH Gr. Noida | Canva

Indian workplaces are noticing a subtle shift in its demographics as more and more women are entering and rising in some of the so-called male-dominated arenas like politics, media, bureaucracy, sports and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Either the recent win of women cricketers from team RCB or a female director-winning award for her good work in films, we are seeing women continue to overcome stereotypes and ceilings while contributing to the growth of the society and nation.

40% Women Enrolment In STEM

A 40% women enrolment in the STEM field which is a world record for India, as per UGC Chairman, is accompanied with a surge in the enrolment of female students in higher education from 1.57 crore to 2.07 crore. The New Education Policy 2020 strategically aligns its aims to SDGs providing unprecedented scope for equal opportunities. A total of 10 % women participation in the start-up journey of the country is a testimony for good intentions and hard work of our policymakers. The country is seeing an increase of 4.2% in female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) which has swollen from 13.3% in 2017–18 to 31.9% in 2022–23.

Many good initiatives and amendments in legislations safeguarding women have been fruitful for encouraging women participation in the workforce. With several amendments in India’s Maternity Benefit Act 1961, we are at the third rank after Canada and Norway in providing maximum number of paid leaves to our working mothers. Maternity Protection laws promote maternal and child health and prevent discrimination against women in the workplace. An inclusive and sustainable work practice enables gender diversity by enabling women to work after motherhood and maintain their work-life balance without prejudice to their health and economic security.

Maternity Leave Benefits

India’s Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Act, 2017, promises the third highest maternity leaves in the world to the workers who choose to be mothers. It extends maternity benefits to commissioning and adopting mothers, mandates employers to provide crèche facilities at the establishment, allows women to work from home in certain cases and requires employers to inform female employees at the time of their joining on maternity benefits available to them.

Canada and Norway are ahead of us by paying 50 weeks and 44 weeks paid leaves respectively for absence from work during motherhood. The amendment protects the employment of women and grants 26 weeks of paid leaves (for the first two children) as compared to 12 weeks in the past. This amendment has benefited around 1.8 million working mothers, as it applies to both the private and the public sectors.

The Act controls service of women in mines, factories, circuses, industry, plantations, shops, and establishments employing ten or more persons for a certain period before and after childbirth and provides for maternity and other benefits.

Another such initiative by the Government of India is making a provision of mandatory women directors for companies in India. The second clause in Section 149(1) of the Companies Act 2013, and the Companies (Appointment and Qualifications of Directors) Rules, 2014, mandates that all private limited companies, limited companies with a paid-up capital of 100 crores INR or a turnover of more than 300 crores INR must have at least one women director on their boards.

Under SEBI LODR regulations (Listing Obligations and Disclosure Requirements), for the top 500 listed entities, it is compulsory to have at least one independent woman director starting April 1, 2019, and for the top 1000 listed entities, this obligation ranges to at least one independent woman director since April 1, 2020.

Bill Regarding Sexual Harassment Of Women At Workplace

The point here is the policymakers are aware of the long-lasting effects of these mandates not only in the inclusion of more talented women in the decision-making roles but also for creating a more equitable and diverse workplaces which as research proves have a clear impact on the culture and performance of the companies.

The results are visible in numbers too. A decade after this amendment, currently we have an average of one in every five board members as women in Nifty-500 companies.

Another path-breaking Initiative is in process when the Rajya Sabha has issued a bill regarding further amendment in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013. This amendment Bill 2024 aims to remove the current lacunas of the act and promises a strong protection to women by proposing extended timelines and exclusion of resolution options for sexual harassment complaints.

The amendment is the need of the hour keeping in mind the figures revealed by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which highlight that the victim count for workplace sexual harassment against women has increased from 402 in 2018 to 422 in 2022. The number is growing despite the well-established fact that crimes against women are underrepresented due to fear of unpleasant aftermaths, insufficient support, and societal biases against the victim herself.

An inclusive, flexible, conducive and safe workplace plays a significant role in harnessing the immense potential of trained/experienced women and we as a country have a long way to go. The intentions and progress made so far are crucial for bringing and sustaining more women at workplaces.

(The author of this article is Dr. Himanshi Tiwari Asso. Professor OB. HR, Diversity & Inclusion BIMTECH Gr. Noida)

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