Quick takes, analyses and macro-level views on all contemporary economic, financial and political events.
By David J Ranz
The World Economic Forum (WEF) reports that women’s global average annual income stands at only $11,000 in purchasing power parity (PPP), compared to nearly twice that — $21,000 — for men. Projecting current trends into the future, the overall global gender wage gap won’t close for 100 years. The gender gap is even more profound when it comes to economic participation and opportunity. If we continue along the same trajectory, it will take 257 years to close this gap worldwide.
Things are just as bad at the highest levels of corporate leadership worldwide, where women account for just 24% of senior roles. Even fewer are CEOs of the world’s largest corporations. Only 1 in 20 Fortune 500 companies was led by a woman in 2018.
Although women are gaining representation among executive committees in Fortune 100 companies, at the board level, they remain a small minority. In 2017, women accounted for 22% of executive committee roles in the Americas, 15% in Europe, and just 4% in Asia.
The situation is particularly alarming in India. WEF’s 2020 Global Gender Gap Index figures indicate that just 25% of women formally engage in India’s labour market, compared with 82% of men. This is one of the lowest workforce participation rates in the world for women, ranking India 145th out of 153 countries. This figure is even more worrisome given the fact that the women’s labour force participation rate in India has fallen from 35% in 1990 to 25% now, despite significant educational gains and robust GDP growth. India is the only major economy to witness such a negative trend in women’s participation in the workforce.
Among India’s senior officials and managers, women account for only 14% of leadership roles — putting India at 136th in WEF’s Global Gender Gap Index — and just 30% of professional and technical workers. GoI has reported that only 10% of startup founders are women, and women fill just 22% of positions in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), despite India having the second-largest AI workforce in the world.
An Indian woman is making about 20% of what an Indian man is making. That compares to an average American woman, who makes about 65% of an American man; an average Chinese woman making 60% of an average Chinese man; and an average Bangladeshi woman making 40% of an average Bangladeshi man. Also, according to OECD data, the average Indian woman performs six hours a day of housework. The average Indian man? One hour.
Oxfam’s Time to Care 2020 report states that women and girls in India contribute 3.26 billion hours of unpaid care work every day, representing the equivalent of at least $271 billion in unpaid income in India a year. This burden of unpaid work negatively impacts women’s economic gains and traps them at the bottom of the economy.
According to IMF, reaching gender parity would boost India’s GDP by as much as 27%. The World Bank reports that India’s GDP growth rate would climb above 9% if women had an equitable share of jobs, and that India could boost its growth by 1.5 percentage points per year if just 50% of women could join the workforce. When more women participate in the labour force, men also benefit. A 2019 IMF study found that as women’s complementary skills raise productivity, wages are boosted for everyone.
Feedback suggests three key areas that will have an impact at both the micro and macro level.
One, top management professionals — both men and women — must set a tone that signifies their support for women leaders. For example, when top management models the behaviour that signifies support for women leaders and indicates zero tolerance for sexual harassment, there will be no more questioning the authority of women managers; no more double standard in justifying decisions made by women in leadership roles.
Tw, proactively addressing the long legacy of policies, practices and norms that thwart women’s equality. Addressing this sordid history requires much more than a commitment to making gender-blind decisions today. We must, instead, work actively to reverse inequality.
Third, view the place we have earned in our professions as a position from which to pay it forward to those working their way up. Reaching out to mentor, to sponsor, to coach, and to share the path forward, we elevate those coming along after us, particularly encouraging women who are rising up through the ranks.
There’s a critical difference between mentorship and sponsorship. As a female colleague once told me, women do not lack mentors, they lack sponsors, that is, advocates. In other words, men are always happy to offer advice, which if anything can inadvertently serve to reinforce the imbalanced power dynamic between men and women. But actively promoting the career of a colleague is a different matter.
Finally, all men should get more involved in household tasks, a practice we should carry forward beyond Covid restrictions.
(The writer is US consul general, Mumbai)
Views expressed above are the author’s own.