Flouting the stereotype, the Narendra Modi led government recently announced Nirmala Sitharaman as India’s first female full-time defence minister. She is promoted to take charge of Defence Ministry from Arun Jaitley who was handling this post after Manohar Parrikar quit to become Goa’s Prime Minister.
Her appointment comes across as a significant landmark in this reshuffle as the defence has been largely male dominated in India. Though women officers have now begun to get permanent commission after long legal battles, they still constitute a small minority. Overall, there are just about 3,500 women among 62,000 officers in the country’s 14-lakh strong armed forces. On her appointment, she said she would keep an "open mind" on women in combat roles.
The appointment is being hailed as a welcome move as the representation of women across government and business is still minuscule in the country. According to a survey conducted by Grand Thorton, India ranks third lowest in having women in leadership positions for the third consecutive year. The report suggests women in India hold only 17 percent of senior positions. The survey of 5,500 businesses in 36 economies further adds that 41 percent of the Indian companies surveyed have no women in leadership roles, 7 points higher than the last year. A similar statistics were released by PRS India, stating women constitute 11.4% in the Lok Sabha.However, Sitharaman’s appointment as one of the six women in the cabinet that include Maneka Gandhi, Smriti Irani, Uma Bharti, Harsimrat Badal, Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman is a welcome note and an inspiration for the private sector to enable women leadership and creating a system that is inclusive.