If women are not empowered, the economy loses | The Indian Express

Clipped from: https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/if-women-are-not-empowered-the-economy-loses-7807503/

Only by creating a level playing field can we see the true potential of women as well as that of the nation

Women’s participation in the workforce in India is still among the lowest in the world at 19.9 per cent (according to World Bank’s data of 2020). (Representative image/pixabay)

It has been proven time and again that when more women enter the workforce, economies grow faster. When women are empowered, the battle to eradicate poverty is more fruitful. Studies conducted in various nations have proven that there is a direct correlation between greater gender diversity and higher GDPs.

We must ensure that all of India’s women get equal access to education, equal access to opportunities, and equal pay at work. By empowering women, we increase their right to economic resources, as well as their decision-making powers. This, in turn, benefits their households and their communities. Women begin investing more in their children’s education, the quality of human capital improves, and we as a nation reap the benefits of economic prosperity.

If women are not empowered, the nation’s economy loses. A recent study by the World Bank found that countries lose $160 trillion in wealth due to the differences in lifetime earnings between men and women. Women’s participation in the workforce in India is still among the lowest in the world at 19.9 per cent (according to World Bank’s data of 2020). Only 3.7 per cent of the leadership positions in corporate India are occupied by women. Right from boardroom representation to entry-level roles, India is striving hard to ensure a balance in gender diversity.

This is not to say progress has not been made. I, for one, am constantly proud of women breaking the glass ceiling in all sectors. In India, women have made it to the top as ministers and chief ministers, administrators in the government system and financial sector CEOs. As someone who started his business from scratch, I have enormous respect for our women who are entering the world’s third-largest startup ecosystem. According to a report by Bain & Company, female entrepreneurs can generate 150-170 million job opportunities in India by 2030 – that’s more so why such entrepreneurs must be supported. The Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has placed great emphasis on the empowerment of women, beginning from their education and health, improving their quality of life to providing them loans to set up businesses. The private sector and civil society must pitch in to make this a mass movement.

Coming to the mining industry, one that I have spent years establishing my businesses in, I see more and more women taking up unconventional roles, whether it be working at mining sites, in manufacturing or security outfits. Glass ceilings are beginning to shatter but there is a lot more to be done. Sandhya Rasakatla from Hindustan Zinc made history last year when she was appointed the country’s first-ever woman underground mine manager. Unfortunately, until recently, mining was perceived as a man’s domain. The physical nature of the work and the use of heavy equipment made regulators shy away from permitting women to work in mines. But just as women begin to enter other male-dominated professions like the armed forces — women are now getting commissioned as fighter pilots — they are doing so in mining as well.

Of course, traditionally male-dominated sectors like mining need to improve not only in terms of their gender representation but also in terms of the work culture they foster. It is the culture at the workplace that determines not just whether a woman gets a seat at the table, but also whether her voice is heard. At Vedanta, we are taking this very seriously.

I truly believe that every woman in our country deserves equal access to opportunities. It is only when we level up the playing field, do we see the true potential of our Bhartiya naari. Their success will define our nation’s success.

As a nation, we need to continue empowering our women to achieve our full potential as a superpower.

This column first appeared in the print edition on March 9, 2022 under the title ‘Wealth of Diversity’. The writer is chairman, Vedanta Ltd

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