Welcome to CSR Dialogues from TeamLease Education Foundation, where industry leaders come together to discuss relevant progressive topics around the social development sector, including Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR). For a recent session, we invited Ms. Anindita Mookerjee Sinha, Senior Communication Professional & Head Corporate Communication, L&T Metro Rail (Hyderabad) Ltd, for an interactive one-on-one conversation with Mr. Joel Fernandez, Lead - Partnerships, Teamlease Education Foundation. The topic of discussion was ‘Empowering Indian Women Through Skilling’.
Here is the summary of the conversation
Why do Indian women have a lower literacy rate even in 2022, specifically in the socio-cultural context?
India ranks 148 out of 150 countries in Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2021, which means India slipped 28 places from the year before. Additionally, the women's labour force participation rate has also decreased from around 25% to 22%. And women are estimated to earn only 1/5 of what men make. This data is definitely disturbing and raises concern about the condition of women in India.
Lack of access and literacy have prevented women from entering the workforce and acquiring technical skills leading to a negative impact on the economy. And when we go to the rural or grassroots level, the societal barriers are creating other problems. When our honourable Prime Minister spoke about skills development in India, he spoke for both men and women showing their talent in the form of handloom, handicrafts, etc. And another challenge with next-gen women is not wanting to do manual labour and wishing for corporate jobs or office jobs. To combat that, more digitalization and E-commerce portal knowledge needs to be imparted to this section of society.
Every state government should come forward and push industry bodies to carry out skill development programs specifically targeting women in villages and small towns. And encourage family members to come forward and showcase their talent. Skill development in women can be a major booster to the state’s economic development or the GDP.
Five points to increase awareness and literacy rate for women in the country
1. Identify and act: First, identify the region, and areas, where women are not being able to come to the forefront. A focused approach to awareness should be spread in those areas.
Investment in skilling women also makes business sense as these women are more likely to enter the workforce and have stable and longer careers. Moreover, organizations can also choose to concentrate on skill development in their specific sectors and areas of operation. In turn, such efforts will create a greater pool of local candidates to choose from and lead to sustainable change in the economy in the long run.
2. Action from ministry: Industry bodies or the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Welfare should be more aggressive in leading these movements.
3. Communication: Communication plays a very major role. Communicating in the local language can help break the barrier for them and would give them the confidence to put their problem across without hesitation.
4. Help create a business mindset: The quality of work is definitely important, but women need to learn how to scale their products, basically developing a business mindset.
5. Financial freedom: After teaching them how to make a business plan in a lucid, easy communication style, it is also extremely crucial to tell them about monetization. Banks and other institutions give loans at low-interest rates to support these business models.
A lot of corporates are trying to bring women back into the mainstream workforce. But a lot needs to be kept in mind before implementing women empowerment or skilling programs in an organization. For example, as per the Companies Act 2013, at least one board member should be a woman from the company. Why not a 50-50 ratio? Discrimination on the basis of gender should stop if we want to bring inclusivity. Even today many corporates think twice before recruiting a lady because of pregnancy and maternity leave measures. So mindset change is an extremely salient feature of creating a skilling program for women. Unless we develop that human approach and become more thoughtful and prudent in our mindset, the culture of the organization will not get better.
Another issue is related to pay. One Deloitte study stated that even in 2045 we will not reach near parity when we talk about salaries. Giving menstrual leaves, maternity leaves, same pay, and flexible working hours are small yet effective measures to bring more women into the workforce.
Celebrating Women's Day is not enough. We have to go to the grassroots level and achieve that long-awaited journey of equality. In this journey, we all have to be together, whether it's corporate, startup, business, or a local market, and bring out a collective conscious change to make a difference.