Competitiveness & Inclusion of Women’s Participation in Business

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– Rajeev Bhardwaj – 

Making Loans Easier for WomenDespite constituting half of the global population, women continue to lag behind men as far as their participation in the workforce is concerned. Not only are they under-represented in top managements of corporate houses, their participation as entrepreneurs in the economy remains abysmally low.

 

Women’s participation in business is not just a gender equality slogan, it makes much economic sense as well. Business acumen and entrepreneurship do not come exclusively to men. However, while a lot of men are able to successfully tap their entrepreneurial capabilities, very few women succeed in realizing their potential. For every wasted woman talent, there is a corresponding economic loss. For example, the projected loss of a business that a woman entrepreneur would have established had she got equal opportunity translates into loss of economic capital, loss of jobs the initiative could have generated. When compounded on a macroeconomic scale, this cumulative loss can be a mammoth quantity for a nation.

 

In the Group of 20 economies, India stands last but one in terms of women’s participation in the workforce, according to an Oxfam report. The only country that lags India is Saudi Arabia. All BRICS nations are much ahead of this country in this field.

Research and advocacy body Catalyst said in a report last year that countries can radically increase their GDP by augmenting the role of women in the economy. Corporate India, in particular, it said would gain immensely by recognizing that women are essential to business and by taking advantage of a rich female talent pool.

 

Although in recent years in India the number of women acquiring advanced degrees has increased, an analysis indicates that a majority of them often remain stuck in junior to middle management levels due to multiple reasons that may include, an institutionalized bias, lack of support for women employees who decide to have children. The consequence is that despite being bright and talented, very few women are able to make the transition to top management positions.

 

The World Economic Forum highlighted in a report on gender gap that countries where the gender gap is smaller in multiple areas including access to education, health, economic and political participation, tend to be more competitive and prosperous.

 

For a very long time, stereotypes have defined what women study, what careers they choose, and whether they chose careers at all. The age-old notion that women’s minds are not wired for excellence in Science and Mathematics, have sub consciously prevented many a women from becoming scientists or taking up careers in the fields of engineering and technology. Even as women break these notions by achieving new ground every day, there remain many more barriers to be overtaken. We need conscious policy measures to encourage women’s inclusion in business.

 

What makes doing business or working easier? Social and family support, easy availability of loans, a good business environment! For women, the additional factors include absence of social hostility, greater help and support at home by spouse and family, a more family friendly corporate culture that takes into account their different needs.

 

It requires a comprehensive top to bottom change of attitude to realize the full potential of our women:

 

Encouraging Girl Students to Study Non Traditional Subjects

 

It starts from the beginning. Making girls believe that they can do whatever on earth they desire to and not feeding into their sub conscious minds that they are meant to do certain things and not meant to do certain others. Recent studies have yet again pointed out that the gender gap in Science is real and it has nothing to do with the fact that women’s brains are wired differently. Girl students should be encouraged to study a wide variety of subjects from Mathematics, Physics, Geology, Archaeology to Architecture, Space Science, Mechanical Engineering and anything under the sun.

 

Projecting Inspirational Stories

 

Nothing inspires men and women more than inspirational stories. Our education and social system should project inspirational stories of women who have made a mark in path-breaking fields.

 

Ensuring Equal Pay for Equal Work

 

A series of discouraging reports and studies have highlighted a systematic gender discrimination when it came to paying women. A recent survey by Monster.com in India found that the median wage earned by women was 27% lower as against their male counterparts.

 

Making Loans Easier for Women

 

Loans for business start ups are never too easy to get, not any less when the loan seekers are women. It would give women entrepreneurs a much-needed impetus if banks devise better and easier lending policies for them. Proliferation of microfinance is one important way to achieve this. The experience of Bangladesh’s Nobel prize winning microfinancing initiative Grameen Bank is a case in point. By making small loans easier in rural areas, Grameen helped thousands of women make a respectable living for themselves and their families.

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Rajeev-BhardwajVice-President-heads-the-Human-Resource-Department-of-SunLife-Financial-Asia-Service-Centre.Rajeev Bhardwaj, Vice President-Human Resource at SunLife Financial’s Asia Service CentreAbout the Author

Rajeev Bhardwaj

Vice President heads the Human Resource Department of SunLife Financial Asia Service Centre

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Disclaimer : The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of INVC

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