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3 Alarming Findings on the State of Working Women in India

Last week, I was at one of the product demo (trying to understand how Amber works better; part of our induction program) while researching on some data for an article on the wage gap in India when I started talking with a new team member in our Customer Success team. I discovered that she had done some non-profit gender equity work before joining inFeedo. When she saw the statistics in my research, she was unsurprised.

The huge wage divide that exists within the lower levels of the corporate structure resonated with her. She even mentioned  the pay discrepancy she experienced at her first job. Within two weeks of joining her male colleagues disclosed they were making significantly more than her. As she explained it, she had never been taught to negotiate and the expectation was always that she should be happy to be employed. Even though at inFeedo, the focus has always been on workplace equity; it doesn’t mean our employees haven’t experienced the wage gap or discrimination elsewhere. 

The Bigger Picture: Think Equal 

This year’s International Women’s Day celebrates equality, and we wanted to take this opportunity to look deeper into the wage gap and workplace inequality in India. While India’s recent economic growth has been celebrated and its GDP currently ranks as the fifth highest in the world, the gender pay gap is staggering. This wage gap along with several other statistical measures concerning lack of access to economic opportunities has caused India to rank 112th out of 153 nations worldwide in the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020 rankings

To make sense of these statistics and work towards improving them, we need to narrow down the problem areas preventing employment equality in India. The most glaring obstacles for women that I will cover in this article are:

  • Lack of access to economic opportunities
  • Low leadership representation in business
  • Disproportionate expectations regarding informal and unpaid work as a result of gender roles.

Addressing these problem areas will go a long way towards decreasing pay inequality and increasing economic participation for Indian women, and push us towards an equal future. After all, the Future is Female. 

1. India has Massive Gaps in Economic Participation

Arguably the most significant statistic surrounding the gender gap in employment in India is disproportionate access to economic participation. India has a 35.4% economic participation and opportunity rate for women, ranking it 149th out of 153 countries analyzed by the World Economic Forum.

In simple terms, access to the formal job market for women in India is abysmal; women only make up 21% of the workforce.

In turn, women’s access to land and capital use is far below that of men, with the rate of access to financial institutions for women scoring .25/1.0 on the World Economic Forum’s scale. Real income wages rose rapidly in India from 2008-2017, with a 5.5% average growth rate that outperformed the rest of the subcontinent.

The pay gap has not been mitigated by this real wage growth, as women in India still earn 34.5% less than men in the same roles according to the International Labor Organization’s 2019 Global Wage Report.

2. Women are Underrepresented in Leadership

The lack of functional access to the formal work sector has also contributed towards poor female representation in leadership roles, as women make up a disproportionately low percentage of high level and ownership positions in Indian companies.

Only 14% of all company boards are comprised women in India, as opposed to 43% in Iceland, one of the highest performing countries. The number dips further when considering females in leadership, as only 8.9% of leadership positions are filled by women.

The other issue that arises as a result of this is that wages at lower levels remain disproportionate because of the lack of female decision makers who could amend the gap. This sentiment towards equal pay is prevalent amongst female executives, as the pay gap at high levels of employment is only 10%. However, the wage gap in lower level positions is as wide as 105%.

More rigorous minimum wage enforcement is helping to bridge this gap, but corrective strides still need to be taken from leadership.

#3 Gender Roles and Domestic Work Block Formal Employment

While access to formal workplaces in India for women is limited, the expectation for women to contribute in the labor sphere is high, and this is displayed in the disproportionate amount of unpaid work women do on average in India.

In Norway, a high ranking country on the WEF’s list, women do approximately 1.2 times as much unpaid work proportionally compared to men. In India, the figure is almost ten times that.

In India women are large contributors of labor, however their relegation to the unpaid work sector, consisting of child care and domestic work, limits their economic participation and self-determination. This gendered expectation, coupled with high competition for jobs and low paying and discriminatory entry level positions prevents many women from ever launching careers. This is just one of the reasons why only 1 in 5 workers in India are female.

How You Can Change This Picture 

  1. Being mindful and creating employee first workplaces that bridge the gender gap

  2. Employing fair hiring practices that help companies create connected employees who stand for the brand

  3. Promoting women in leadership positions who will work to undo the issues in the system from the top down

Without a concerted effort from executives, the systemic issues will never be resolved. Even if the demographics of upper management fail to change dramatically it’s about turning male leadership into allies and changing traditional corporate culture. The change is happening day by day; as the World Economic Forum predicts, the gender gap will be eliminated in South Asia in 71 and a half years.

This may sound like a long period, but the U.S isn’t expected to close the gap for 151 years and East Asia is predicted to take 163 to reach equality.

Stay tuned as we reveal more on the demographics and representation at the workplace this week on our blog and social pages, taking on what International Women’s Day means to us. Till then, think equal. 

Clay Walsh
Clay Walsh
Content Writer at inFeedo

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