Women Rising: The New Dawn in India
Female Feticide in India
For a nation that worships the Mother Goddess and has the longest festival, the Navratris, in her honor, India certainly doesn’t seem to value its more human women. The last census conducted in the country, in 2011, showed that the child sex ratio in the southern and eastern states of the country was between 103 to 107, which according to a report on Abortion-Female Foeticide in India, published in 20141, is considered the “natural ratio.” However, the western states of Maharashtra and Rajasthan, as well as the northern and northwestern states of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab reported among the highest sex ratios. What was really disconcerting was that urban India reported higher child sex ratios than rural India, implying greater prevalence of female feticide in urban regions. The situation is unlikely to have changed too drastically over the past few years.
Yet, Women Saved the Day at Rio
India sent a record contingent to the Rio Olympics, of 113 athletes. Yet, the only medals brought home were by the women athletes. PV Sindhu, Sakshi Malik, Dipa Karmakar and Lalita Babar saved face for the nation at the Olympics, bearing the huge responsibility of making India proud on their “slender” shoulders with to huge success. Sindhu won the silver medal for badminton, while Sakshi brought home the bronze medal in wrestling. Dipa Karmakar amazed with her breath taking gymnastics, especially the death-defying Produnova vault, while Lalita Babar brought to mind the achievements on the track of legends like Milkha Singh and PT Usha, according to an article published in September 2016 in the Siliconeer2. This should definitely give an impetus to the government’s “Beti Bachao” campaign, even if it doesn’t hit home to the people who still consider a female child a burden on the family.
Breaking the Glass Ceiling
According to an article in the Business Standard3, published in September 2016, the number of women who are part of the board of directors of companies in India doubled from 5.5% in 2010 to 11.2% in 2015. In fact, the latest CS Gender 3000 report by Credit Suisse Research Institute revealed that India has closed the gap with the global average, which stands at 14.7%, although the country has the second lowest representation of women in senior management positions in Asia, falling behind Japan and South Korea. What was even more interesting was that the report linked higher participation of women in decision making roles to higher market returns and better profits. In fact, according to Life Insurance Company, women are increasingly taking important decisions even on the home front, helping the family secure its financial future by opting for tools like term plan insurance, while also taking on a decision making role when it comes to family planning.
The Most Powerful Women
Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women in the World list for 20163 included four Indian women. Of them, Arundhati Bhattacharya, the first woman Chairperson of the State Bank of India, came in at #25. Ms. Bhattacharya is also the youngest person to become the chairperson of this bank. She pioneering an internal blog at SBI, where women employees can share their ideas and problems. She also started the SBI In-Touch services, a digital banking service that offers all the bank’s services under one roof. She has also launched a two-year sabbatical policy for women who need to take maternity leave or take time off to care for their families during extended medical emergencies.
At #40, Chanda Kochhar, CEO of ICICI Bank Ltd, is currently leading the bank into the world of retail lending. Ms. Kochhar has been hailed for the remarkable transformation she has spearheaded at India’s largest private banking company, taking it out of the financial crisis of 2008. She too has worked to make life easier for women employees, launching the company’s “iWork@home” program, which allows employees to work from home for up to one year. Needless to say, woman power is on the rise in India, whether or not the common man is aware of it. This is no short term plan but a long term step in the right direction for the nation.