Women In INDIA: Empowered, Really???


Indian woman’s journey from medieval India to modern India has been quite eventful. The status of women in modern India is a sort of a paradox. If on one hand she is at the peak of ladder of success, on the other hand time & again consciously or sometimes unwillingly she has succumbed to other obligations that substitute her career.

As compared with past women in modern times have become more concerned towards their education & career but do they constitute majority is the question. Though Indian women have proven themselves, they are yet to get their dues. There are many problems which women in India have to go through daily and gradually some of them accept it as their fate. The conclusion of few studies carried lately has left me in jittery that development & empowerment story is just a furore.

A report published by World Economic Forum on 12th October 2010 mentioned stark fact that India is placed at 112th position on a list of 134 countries in Global Gender Gap Index 2010. This indicates the gravity of gender disparity with which India is plagued. It also implies that resources, educational attainment, health & political involvement is lopsided in India. Europe’s Nordic countries remain global leaders in the campaign to close the gender equality gap.


This news was preceded by another discomfit tiding that top Indian companies are bitten by the bug known as gender disparity in top Indian Companies; severe imbalance has been observed i.e. women occupy only 5 percent of board positions in the country’s top 100 companies.

This came as ramification of a recent study by Standard Chartered Bank along with non -profit organization Community Business and Canfield School of Management on 100 companies listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, in terms of the representation of female directors on their boards. The study, conducted survey on the top companies comprising the BSE-100 index, just 59 directorships or 5.3 percent, are held by women, the study revealed. These directorships are held by 48 different women. This percentage compares unfavourably not just with Canada (15 percent), the US (14.5 percent) and the UK (12.2 percent), but also markets such as Hong Kong (8.9 percent) and Australia (8.3 percent).

Female Directorship INdia

The inadequate gender diversity of boards bring to the fore that there is lack of representation for women on boards of leading Indian companies which also means lack of different perspectives in analysis & decision making. Here is the full report.

This reminded me of the overhauling debate about the women position & her role in a patriarchal society, the arguments about women reservation versus the merit play.

This research is critical not only in raising the awareness of the need to increase women’s advancement to the board level, but also give a thought that – why this has not happened as a gradual & natural process when awareness towards education & career has been quite decent. The percentage of women in corporate world has increased but inequality remains. The most commonly cited reasons for the small female representation at board levels were that many women fall off the corporate ladder mid-career because family concerns.

Moreover, women are perhaps less visible in the corporate environment and as a result, are not put forward in the nomination process, as often as men. This really intrigues me that the whole hullabaloo around women ascending the corporate ladder & getting more conscious about their professional life is disguise? Well no disregard to the fact that women have become more focused in corporate world but are they able to sustain this vigour till the end of their career? The primary reason may be women withdraw as the concern shifts to family/kids.

The study conducted in India was preceded by another study conducted in Hong Kong and it’s been observed that women in both the geographies referenced how traditional family roles, conflicting priorities and obligations can hinder the advancement of women professionally and how women tend to be disadvantaged in networking and therefore visibility. There was one more global survey in 2009 (Chicago) about women at workplace & outcome mentioned was that women are over-worked, over-extended, over-stressed and under-served by business.

Well, where lies the solution then – Is reservation an apt answer? (I think that will be unfair as it goes against merit proposition.) or situation should be left as it is to improve on its own?

Women know the importance of professional positions performance, competence and broad sector experience. I believe that every individual has an urge to lead and succeed, so do women, but are not able to owing to some barriers. These include both, the commonly referred to “glass ceiling” – an unacknowledged bias or set of attitudes in the workplace that prevents women from attaining leadership positions, but also the “invisible filter” – the infamous social norms that compel women to be, above all, a mother, wife, daughter and daughter-in-law.

Indian women have come a long way but still another long way remains to be conquered & so does Indian Society which needs to give women an environment that bestows upon her fulfilment, freedom to pursue happiness & satisfaction & work life balance to make right trade-offs & tough decisions. I’m sure scenario is going to move in reverse directions in next five years.

Your thoughts ?

  1. ANSHUL GUPTA says

    Shocking results. This situation has improved a lot in the past ten years!

  2. Pradeep says

    Good post. Yes still long way to go

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