Gender inequality has been a pervasive issue for India, and the nation has initiated several remedial measures to reduce this disparity. Ensuring Development of women and achieving equality has been a core goal of the government since the adoption of the Fifth Five Year Planin 1974. The Department of Women and Child Development is working towards promoting the social and economic development of women through its curated programmes and policies.
At a global level, India, along with 192 other countries are committed to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development (Goal 5) for Gender Equality. The goal sets an ambitious targetfor empowering women and achieving gender equality by 2030. However, several years since its announcement, disparities remain.
The workforce participation rate of Indian Women has always been significantly lower than that of men. It is to note that most women employed are lesser-skilled and work in factories, farms, or as domestic help.
The Disparity highlighted by the labour workforce data reflects the underlying gender inequality prevalent in our society. Inequalities persist across economic and social transformations, policy reforms and concentrated movements to challenge discrimination against women.
The existing patriarchal norms and widely prevalent gender stereotypes have deprived girls from receiving quality education and lucrative economic opportunities. These barriers collectively prevent gender equality from becoming a reality.
This year, as we celebrate Women’s Day with the theme of ‘Break The Bias’ and achieving gender equality, it is time to reflect on key challenges in achieving gender equality and possible solutions to overcome them.
Key challenges in achieving gender equality
It begins with our families; children witness inequalities related to gender at homes and communities every day. Boys and girls are differentiated in terms of what activities and sports they play, food, education, etc. They grow up with these age-old ideas of gender-appropriate behaviour and responsibilities deeply embedded in their behaviours.
In most families, women remain confined to handling domestic chores and looking after the well-being of their children and elders. The lack of a support system, especially in nuclear families, is reported to be the biggest barrierfor women entering education and paid work, as they struggle to balance professional duties with family responsibilities.Further, finding a job that can help balance work and family is tougher for women than finding Nemo.
Culturally there is an inherent belief that men are better equipped to handle certain tasks. This perception results in fewer jobs earmarked for women. Even when they work in the same occupation, women are often paid lower than men.Workplaces often also lack the infrastructure necessary to provide women with a safe space for growth and development. These barriers make it difficult for women to grow or thrive at the workplace.
Solutions to improve gender equality
Gender equality and women's empowerment are integral to sustainable development. The Ministry of Women and Child Developmenthas been working towards achieving it by mainstreaming gender concerns and facilitating institutional, nutritional, and legislative support for enabling women in achieving their full potential. Despite the efforts, progress towards achieving equality has been moving at a snail’s pace.
This Demonstrates a need for a mind shift -beyond policy reforms to bring in gender equality. Families must take the lead and be the frontrunner of change. Examples set at home by parents, caregivers and extended family to the next generations will play a great role in shaping notions about gender and equality.It is critical to break down gender stereotypes at home, from an early age, by involving girls in financial decisions and the participation of boys in household chores. Families should invest equally in empowering girls with better education, life, and sports skills.
There is a need to eliminategender-basedroles, stereotypes, and discrimination while hiring. While many companies have developed comprehensive diversity and inclusion policies, widespread acceptance of a strategic and important role for women is still a long road to traverse.
Within organisations, effective mentorship programmes driven by women leaders would support and empower women employees in their career development and growth to the C-Suite.By making such programmes an integral part of the company culture, leaders can help in ensuring greater satisfaction, retention, and promotion among women employees.
As the world marches towards achieving gender equality, all stakeholders must commit to affirmative action and a mind shift to eliminate inequalities in all spheres. Affirming gender equality at home is a meaningful start in the right direction, and organisations need to bolster that with support for all genders at the workplace. Let us all pledge to do our part and make our workplaces gender neutral and build a truly just and resilient world. Come lets #BreakTheBias.